September 26, 2023

I paid off $100,000 in two years and built a real estate empire. Now I’m an influencer making more than six figures in less than a year

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 making big sales started years in advance with the “biggest financial mistake of [her] to live.”

A native of Dallas, Rodriguez bought a certified pre-owned “mom car” — a Kia Sorento with about 20,000 miles on it — to tour the country for a grad school in San Francisco. But after a series of recalls just months after her purchase, she traded her model in for a brand new $30,000 version, just in a different color.

“It set me back 30 steps when it came to really understanding finance,” said Rodriguez, 33.

Nancy Rodriguez's Kia Sorento

Rodriguez bought a certified pre-owned “mom car” – a Kia Sorento with about 20,000 miles on it as one of her first major purchases.

The purchase eventually added to a total debt burden of $100,000; by the time she graduated with her master’s degree in speech, language and hearing sciences, she was making $70,000 in student loans. But within two years of graduating she said she had paid off – thanks to a lot of work outside work, living frugally and building a passive income. It put her in a financial spot that she could “really just be proud of,” Rodriguez says Fortune.

Since then, she’s purchased 11 investment properties in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Chicago, shifting her focus to a new, lucrative income stream: reality TV stardom. The Love is blind Season 3 star sat down with Fortune in June to explain how she boosted her financial health to build wealth in three steps, from paying off six figures in debt in two years to earning more than six figures in less than a year.

The hustle and bustle: Paying off six-figure debt

With so much debt hanging over her head, Rodriguez juggled multiple jobs as a full-time speech and language pathologist with part-time jobs as a speech therapist at a home care company and data analyst for management consulting firm Technomic. 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 says 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 bestselling novel Rich dad poor dad for helping her increase her financial literacy and convincing her to turn her attention to real estate investing.

“Knowing I had $100,000 to my name was probably one of the scariest things,” she said. “I think I really understood that I had to be temporarily uncomfortable so that I can have long-term satisfaction, which got to the point where I would be debt-free.”

All the while, Rodriguez served as an egg donor, a process she began in graduate school for some extra money. She completed her eighth and final giving cycle shortly before wiping out her debt, investing her career in real estate.

Squatters, Fires, and Hoarders: Creating Passive Income Through Real Estate

Nancy Rodriguez's real estate investments add up to six-digit annual income.

Nancy Rodriguez’s real estate investments add up to six-digit annual income.

Purchasing her first home in June 2016 “wasn’t easy,” Rodriguez said, and it took six months and 20 listings for her to close a deal.

With help from the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA) homebuyers program, Rodriguez said he was able to finance an “old-fashioned” $250,000 duplex in Dallas with original floors and yellow walls.

“It was the thorn in the side of the new neighborhood,” said Rodriguez, who felt it was an instant no-no. But faced with the dilemma of buying her “dream house” or the yellow-walled cottage, Rodriguez chose the latter, vowing to “hack” the duplex so she could rent one side and use her tenants’ payments to pay her mortgage.

“It was understanding that mindset of letting go of that momentary satisfaction and being temporarily uncomfortable so I could have that long-term satisfaction,” Rodriguez said.

After some cosmetic upgrades and a fresh coat of paint, Rodriguez turned her new property into an income-generating asset, renting one side to a tenant and living in the other. She said it motivated her to generate more passive income as she was able to use her tenants’ rent to buy a second duplex in less than a year.

The house, paid for in cash, turned out to be another fixer-upper and was slightly charred from a past fire. It was also already inhabited – by squatters, with whom she said she had made a deal. She let them live on the property while they helped get the house ready for demolition and renovation and paid them for their work. “They just needed a chance to get their lives back on track,” she said.

In total, Rodriguez has expanded her real estate portfolio to 11 properties over the past eight years, of which she has sold five. Rodriguez offers her six remaining properties as short-term Airbnb rentals, telling her Instagram followers that her profit margins hover around $2,000 to $4,000 per month per property.

Her top income property is a four-bedroom, three-bathroom house with a swimming pool. Bought for cash, she said the house now makes her a cool $80,000 a year, after taxes and fees.

From pods to podcasting: finding a new revenue stream

Nancy Rodriguez pictured in front of Netflix's Love Is Blind logo.

Three months before Season 3 of Love is Blind hit Netflix, Rodriguez star
ted planning her career as a social media creator.

Becoming a reality TV star has only fueled Rodriguez’s blossoming career as an investor. Nicknamed the “real estate tycoon” 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 creator, organizing her favorite brands in an Excel spreadsheet and reaching out to cast members from previous seasons for their advice on how to close deals.

Rodriguez said that after her season’s debut, her followers on Instagram exploded from 800 family and friends to more than 500,000. Since then, she has also grown her TikTok followers to over 200,000. Her portfolio of brand deals now includes BetterHelp, Smirnoff, Latino dating app Chispa and more, with some campaigns reaching as high as $30,000.

“In the past six months I’ve made more than six figures,” said Rodriguez, with “about $150,000 or more in that area when it comes to branded deals.”

She views her career as an influencer as another “opportunity to create more cash flow” and has used her earnings to buy another house and make renovations. “All that money went straight to my real estate,” Rodriguez said. “I haven’t even seen that money.”

Rodriguez now shares financial tips with fans on Instagram and recently launched an online clothing subscription service called Pretty Posh Box.

“Which I am very grateful for afterwards Love is blind is that it has really enabled me to create a platform to enable education in the real estate world,” said Rodriguez. “I just think the world of real estate investing isn’t as scary as it seems.”

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