For most reality TV stars, amassing a fortune usually comes when they become famous on the show. But for Love is blind star Nancy Rodriguez, the journey to achieving big sales began years in advance with the “biggest financial mistake of [her] life.”
A native of Dallas, Rodriguez bought a certified used “mom’s car” — a Kia Sorento with about 20,000 miles — to commute across the country for college in San Francisco. But after a series of recalls just months after buying it, she traded in her model for a brand new $30,000 version, just in a different color.
“It set me back 30 steps when it came to really understanding finances,” said Rodriguez, 33.
The purchase ultimately contributed to a total indebtedness of $100,000; by the time she earned her master’s degree in speech, language, and hearing sciences, she racked up $70,000 in student loans. But within two years of graduating, she says she paid for it all, thanks to lots of hustling, living frugally and generating passive income. It put her in a financial position she could “really be proud of,” Rodriguez says Fortune.
Since then, she’s purchased 11 investment properties in Dallas, Fort Worth and Chicago, and focused on a lucrative new source of income: reality TV stardom. THE Love is blind The Season 3 star sat down with Fortune in June to explain how she supercharged her financial health to build wealth in three steps, from paying off six figures of debt in two years to over six figures in less than a year.
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With so much debt over his head, Rodriguez juggled multiple jobs as a full-time speech therapist with part-time positions as a speech therapist at a home health care company and a data analyst for the Technomic management consulting firm. Tired of the 60-hour work week, she turned to personal finance guru Dave Ramsey for advice on how to stay afloat.
“When Dave Ramsey talked about rice and beans, it was a rice and beans lifestyle when it came to paying off my debt,” she recalls. “I remember literally having to have a bowl of homemade beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Rodriguez also credits Robert Kiyosaki’s best-selling novel rich dad, poor dad for helping her deepen her financial knowledge and convincing her to focus on real estate investing.
“Knowing that I had $100,000 to my name was probably one of the scariest things,” she said. “I think it was really understanding that I needed to be uncomfortable for a while so that I could have long-term gratification, which was getting to the point of being debt-free.”
Throughout this time, Rodriguez served as an egg donor, a process she began in graduate school for a little extra cash. She completed her eighth and final round of giving shortly before clearing her debt, the springboard for her career in real estate investing.
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Buying her first home in June 2016 “wasn’t easy,” Rodriguez said, and took more than six months and 20 bid submissions to close a deal.
With help from the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) program for first-time home buyers, Rodriguez said he was able to finance an “old-fashioned” $250,000 duplex in Dallas with original floors and yellow walls.
“It was the eyesore of the new neighborhood,” said Rodriguez, who felt it was an immediate no. But faced with the dilemma of buying her “dream house” or the yellow-walled cottage, Rodriguez opted for the latter, pledging to “hack” the duplex so she could rent one side and use the payments from her tenants to pay their mortgage.
“It was understanding that mentality of letting go of that temporary gratification and being temporarily uncomfortable so that I could have that long-term gratification,” Rodriguez said.
After some cosmetic upgrades and a fresh coat of paint, Rodriguez has turned his new property into an income-generating asset, renting one side to a tenant and living on the other. She said it motivated her to generate more passive income, as she was able to use rent from her tenants to buy a second duplex in less than a year.
The house, paid for in cash, turned out to be another repairman and was slightly charred due to a past fire. It was also already inhabited – by squatters, with whom she said she had an agreement. She allowed them to live on the property while they helped prepare the house for demolition and renovation and paid them for their work. “They just needed a chance to get their lives back together,” she said.
In total, Rodriguez has expanded her real estate portfolio over the past eight years to 11 properties, five of which she has sold. Rodriguez is offering his remaining six properties for short-term Airbnb rentals, telling his Instagram followers that his profit margins hover between $2,000 and $4,000 per month per property.
His most income-generating property is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house and a swimming pool. Bought with cash, she said the house now earns her $80,000 a year after taxes and fees.
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Becoming a reality TV star has only fueled Rodriguez’s blossoming career as an investor. Dubbed the “real estate mogul” by fellow cast member Raven Ross, Rodriguez said she used her newfound fame to “put on my businesswoman hat” and explore more business opportunities.
Three months before season 3 of Love is blind hit Netflix, Rodriguez began planning her career as a social media maker, organizing her favorite brands in an Excel spreadsheet and connecting with cast members from previous seasons to get their advice on how to to start making deals.
Rodriguez said that after her season debut, her Instagram account grew from 800 family members and friends to over 500,000. She has since grown her TikTok account to over 200,000 as well. Branded deals now includes BetterHelp, Smirnoff, Latin dating app Chispa, and more, with some campaigns up to $30,000.
“Over the last six months or so, I’ve made over six figures,” Rodriguez said, with “around $150,000 or more in this area as far as brand deals go.”
She sees her influencer career as another “opportunity to create more cash flow” and has used her earnings to buy another house and do some renovations. “All that money went straight into my real estate,” Rodriguez said. “I haven’t even seen that money.”
Rodriguez now shares financial advice with her fans on Instagram and recently launched an online clothing subscription service called Pretty Posh Box.
“What I’m really grateful for after Love is blind is that it really allowed me to create a platform to enable education in the world of real estate,” Rodriguez said. “I just think the world of real estate investing isn’t as scary as it looks.”
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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