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Kevin Rockwood has been in the REtipster Community for about a year now. He came through our coaching program working with Jaren, and he’s been able to make some pretty good headway in this business.
Kevin is also a software developer who is one of the driving forces behind Pebble, which can handle direct mail management and lead tracking for properties in the acquisition funnel.
Another interesting thing about Kevin is that he lives in South Korea and has built his land investing business while working from the other side of the world. In this conversation, we’re talking with Kevin about how he’s managed to do all of this while working from such a long distance and in a very different time zone from where his business is happening.
International real estate investors like Kevin always have some ingenious ways of making the pieces of their business fit together even when they aren’t physically present in the U.S. These are lessons that all of us can learn from and put to good use.
Links and Resources
- REI Conversion
- 092: Investing in U.S. Real Estate as an “Alien” w/ Matt and Alicia
- 094: Real Estate Closing Are About to Get A Lot Easier with Fabrica
- 065: Is Your Real Estate Website Doing Its Job? Interview w/ Jessey of REI Conversion
- Traveling Mailbox Review: Here’s Why I Switched
- Traveling Mailbox (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- PATLive Review: How Helpful is a Virtual Receptionist for Busy Entrepreneurs?
- PATLive (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- Can Your Phone System Do This? It Should!
- RingCentral (REtipster Affiliate Link)
- Google Voice
- REtipster Facebook Group
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- Leave your thoughts about this episode on the REtipster forum!
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Thanks again for listening!
Episode 96 Transcription
Seth: Hey everybody, how’s it going? This is Seth Williams and Jaren Barnes, and you’re listening to the REtipster podcast. In this episode, we’re talking with Kevin Rockwood. Kevin has been a member of the REtipster community for about a year now. He came through our coaching program, working with Jaren, and he’s been able to make some pretty good headway in his real estate business to date.
Kevin is also a software developer and one of the driving forces behind a website called Pebble, which you can find through reiconversion.com. Pebble is basically kind of like a pseudo-CRM system that can handle direct mail management and lead tracking end-to-end. So, it’s kind of cool. It’s worth checking it out.
A really interesting thing about Kevin and this is actually why we’re talking to him today is he lives in South Korea and he built his land investing business largely while working from the other side of the world. Kevin is a U.S. citizen so that gives him some advantages over others who are working overseas, who don’t have their U.S. citizenship.
In this conversation we wanted to talk with Kevin, just to figure out how has he managed to do all this working from such a long-distance? What about this is really difficult? What about this actually isn’t that hard? Just kind of peel back the onion a little bit and figure out how he’s been able to make it work. Because it’s a fairly common thing that I’ll hear from folks outside the U.S. who are wondering if there’s a place for them in the land business, even though they don’t live here. And I think the answer is absolutely, but there are some important things to be aware of like some of the challenges they’ll have to deal with and know how to just navigate through some of those issues, which isn’t always obvious to somebody who has never done this before.
Another interesting thing I’ve found in talking with international investors like this is that there are actually some pretty ingenious ways that all of us can make things work better, even if we’re already located in the U.S. The difference is a lot of international investors are kind of forced to find more efficient, effective ways of doing things, which in a way, it kind of makes them a little bit more agile than those of us who have the luxury of working closer to where we live.
With all that out of the way, Kevin, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Kevin Rockwood: Thanks, Seth. I’m doing great. It’s a beautiful morning here in Seoul.
Seth: Maybe in 30 to 60 seconds, can you give us your backstory in real estate? How did you get into the land flipping business model and what does your business look like today?
Kevin Rockwood: My wife and I moved here about five years ago from the U.S. And I guess about a year-and-a-half ago is when I learned about the land flipping business, just on a podcast. I had been really interested in getting into the real estate game in some capacity. And I had been looking at doing rentals internationally and doing a few other things. I didn’t know how easy that was going to be from South Korea until I found this land flipping model and I was like, “Wait a second. Nothing about this requires me to be in the U.S. so this sounds like the perfect thing I can do from over here.” That’s basically how I started.
I started my company last August of 2019. It’s been great. I’ve been doing everything from over here. I have not stepped foot inside the U.S. in starting the business, and I’ve out-earned myself as a software engineer. So that’s pretty good, I guess.
Seth: Maybe we can preface this just a little bit more. Why are you in South Korea at all? What led you to live in that part of the world?
Kevin Rockwood: My wife and I were living in Cincinnati before we came here. She was finishing up grad school in Cincinnati and she’s from South Korea. So, we sort of got to that point where she had finished up school and we were thinking, do we buy a house here in Cincinnati? I’m originally from Wisconsin. Do we move back to Wisconsin? And we just thought now’s a great time to just go to Korea. We can be with her side of the family. I can get to learn the language. It’s been great because we actually have had two kids since being here, but there’s a lot of benefits to starting a family here.
Seth: Are your kids bilingual then?
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. Yeah. It’s pretty remarkable to watch a two-year-old learn two languages simultaneously. It’s mind-blowing actually.
Seth: Do they even know when they’re talking English versus Korean?
Kevin Rockwood: It boggles my mind how their little brains are able to handle this, but he will turn to my mother-in-law ask her a question in Korean and then turn to me and answer and like translate the answer to English. I don’t know if he really knows what’s going on, but it seems so natural.
Seth: We actually are sending our kids through a Spanish immersion program where we live in the school system.
Kevin Rockwood: Oh, that’s awesome.
Seth: I don’t know how much there is to this, but apparently in this public school system that we’re in, it’s a huge school system. There’s like thousands and thousands of kids. And last year, 8 of the 10 top kids went through the Spanish immersion program. They’re thinking maybe it somehow opens up these neurological pathways where when you are kind of forced to learn a new language at that age, maybe your brain just becomes more flexible. I don’t know. We’ll see.
Kevin Rockwood: Time will tell.
Jaren: Yeah, it’s going to be really interesting in our house because my wife speaks three languages. So, she speaks Kazak, Russian, and English. I worry sometimes that they’re going to get stuck between languages. That gives me a lot of courage that your kids are doing so well between the two.
Kevin Rockwood: It’s been interesting.
Jaren: I wanted to ask you, are you in South Korea all the time? You mentioned earlier that you haven’t stepped foot inside the U.S. since you started your land business. Do you ever come back to the U.S. at all?
Kevin Rockwood: Yes. We were actually supposed to be there, like in four days, but the pandemic sort of threw things off a little bit. So, we had to push that trip back. I typically come back every year if I can just to visit family.
Jaren: So, it’s not related to your land business at all. It’s just because you want to see family.
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah, exactly.
Jaren: Very cool.
Kevin Rockwood: Seth mentioned this a little bit earlier, but the great part about building a business while you’re outside of the country is you—sort of—are forced to put together those processes that let you do things entirely remotely. It’s just been great because I now have a business that is pretty much hands-off for me needing to be physically located in the U.S. And now I can move forever if I want to. My wife and I are toying with ideas if we want to move to other countries or do some other things. We’ve got the flexibility to do that now.
Jaren: That’s awesome.
Seth: I kind of think back to August when you were getting started. Was there any part of you that thought, “Oh, maybe this isn’t going to work because I’m not there. Maybe there are problems?” Or were you pretty confident, like, “Nope. This is not an issue. There are zero problems with doing this from the other side of the world?”
Kevin Rockwood: There were definitely things that I was concerned about. Mainly legal things. When I first got started, I knew I was going to set up some sort of LLC. And I just reached out to a lawyer and basically had them set up my LLC. And I just asked them what are going to be any legal ramifications of me being outside of the country. They said there was really no issue. Now, I’m a U.S. citizen so that makes it a lot easier than if I wasn’t. I know there are a lot of land investors who are not U.S. citizens who make it work, so the obstacles aren’t insurmountable. So, they said there was nothing wrong with doing it over here. Basically, I go until I hit a roadblock and then I Google stuff until I figure out how to get around that.
Seth: If anybody out there is listening to this and you’re wondering, “Okay, what if I’m not a U.S. citizen? What then?” I actually did have a conversation with Alicia and Matt in episode 92 of the podcast. And they’re from Australia, non-U.S. citizens. They’ve also figured out a lot of workarounds. So, check that out if you have any interest in hearing about it from that end of things.
Jaren: So, what do you do about a bank account if you’re not a U.S. citizen? Obviously, it’s easier for you because you have citizenship but what do you do if you’re not a citizen? How do you set up a bank account so you can actually get paid from closing?
Kevin Rockwood: Since I am a U.S. citizen, I’m not a hundred percent sure about that, but I know some people can open up bank accounts as international investors. I know that the U.S. is pretty pro-outside investment. So, there are ways that you can open up international bank accounts. I’m sure there’s a lot more paperwork and you probably have to register with some sort of thing, but I’m sure it’s not impossible. Just like here in Korea it’s pretty easy to open up a bank account as an international person. So long as you are following all the rules and regulations.
Seth: Yeah. And that particular issue I know was a problem when I was talking with the Australian citizens because a lot of banks will require that you got to be here in person to do this or you can’t open up an account. And especially now that’s a huge problem because it’s hard to get around. But there are actually services online, specific banks, like Stripe Atlas is one. I have them linked at retipster.com/92, but there are three banks in particular that can cost a little bit extra money, but you can do this remotely if you work with those. So, if you’re out there and you’re wondering how to do this, go check those out.
Jaren: Man, you guys are getting me inspired. I need to just like up and leave Munster, Indiana and go live abroad. This is exciting stuff. Hey, Kevin, working remotely, do you do business in all 50 states? Do you specialize in certain states? Where are you doing the land business?
Kevin Rockwood: I started in New Mexico and I’ve had a lot of success there. So that’s primarily where I’m doing stuff. I’ve done a few deals in a few neighboring states, but primarily New Mexico has been working out. So that’s just sort of where I’ve stayed. I’ve got a title company that knows I’m international and they’re fine with me doing notarizations online and doing all that stuff. So that’s sort of where I’m sticking.
Seth: Well, in terms of New Mexico, did you think that through a lot before you decided to form an LLC and then start working there? Or was it just kind of like picking a state at random? What made you pick that?
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah, it was sort of just random. I was looking at Zillow and I was looking through where land deals were happening. And I think at the time when I was first starting out, I was a little bit worried about going to really hot markets. I think now I wouldn’t care so much because I think there’s a lot to be said about going where there’s the most deals happening. But yeah, I sort of saw New Mexico over there as things were happening, but it wasn’t like a thousand deals were happening every week. So, I went there and it’s worked out.
Seth: Another issue that I hear about quite a bit, especially from international investors, is that it’s kind of difficult to get notary signatures. In other parts of the world, notaries are not as big or as common of a thing as there are in the U.S. And so, what I’ll hear people saying is that they have to drive to the nearest U.S. embassy to get the signature, which is like crazy. It’s totally inefficient. It’s not a good, sustainable solution. There are also people who can get online notarizations through like notarize.com, which can work if the county that they’re working in will record documents online. Not all of them do. What is your experience been with that? How are you getting notary signatures and stuff in Korea? Are notaries a normal thing in that country or no?
Kevin Rockwood: They’re not. No, they have a whole different thing with these stamps, which is kind of cool. I use notarize.com to do basically all of my notarizations. And so far, I have not had an issue with that. Now I have come across title companies who will not accept online notarizations if they’re going to issue a title insurance policy, but I just found one that’s okay with it. And I have a feeling now with the pandemic situation that those rules are going to be relaxed a little bit, because it only makes sense that people can do things online. So far that’s not been an issue for me. Now I’m in Seoul and there’s a U.S. embassy just like five miles away. So, I could head up there and get a notarization done. I know I have to schedule it in advance and sometimes there’s a wait time there, but that’s also a possibility.
Jaren: In New Mexico and in other places that you’ve done business, do you need a witness signature on the warranty deed? Because I know in Florida, you do. And that was my biggest hurdle with notarize.com is that in Florida, the notary themselves can actually be a witness. You need two witnesses, but they would refuse to do it every single time. So, what’s your workaround there? Have you run into that issue at all?
Kevin Rockwood: New Mexico is not a witness state, so that’s not been an issue for me. I think Arizona is also not a witness state, but yeah, Florida is one. I think there are a couple of others that also require. I just avoid those states and I just focused on the states that they’ve been working so far for me, I think notarize.com can do witnesses in certain situations, but that’s something you’ll have to check on.
Seth: Was I understanding you right, Jaren, that you need a witness and a notary signature on a deed?
Jaren: Yeah, that’s correct, Seth. It’s actually required to have two witnesses on a deed in Florida, but the notary can be one of those witnesses.
Seth: I know in Michigan a witness signature is needed on the purchase agreement, but on the deed, the notary is the witness and the notary. I just want to make sure I understood that right. I didn’t realize you needed that in Florida.
Jaren: It’s really annoying. That’s probably the most annoying thing about doing business in Florida, to be honest.
Kevin Rockwood: You wonder when this whole system is going to modernize.
Jaren: Yeah. There’s literally no point to having a witness signature if it’s notarized, in my opinion. But I don’t make the rules.
Seth: On that whole issue, this is a little premature for me to mention this, but in episode 94, I talked with one of the founders of a company called Fabrica. They handled closings a little bit differently. They make it a lot easier in that you can put the deed into a trust and then you sell the trust to the end buyer, which means there is no deed that has to be recorded and that you can also receive the money through their platform through an ACH. It’s really, really slick. I actually did a video demo walkthrough of what it looks like to the buyer. It’s like a five-minute process. It’s pretty cool. But again, it only works in a few states now and they’re expanding into new ones in 2021 I believe. I don’t know if we’ll ever see the day when that works everywhere, but if you are in a state where Fabrica works, it seems like a pretty helpful thing that can simplify that horrible process of closing that we’re all just used to it.
Jaren: And a big part of that is if you wanted to have an e-commerce platform in your land business, where people were buying instantaneously, that’s a solution, actually to do that where it removes that bottleneck of having to do a self-close or close through a title company. It’s a pretty big deal.
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. I’m definitely going to look into that. That sounds great.
Seth: So, when it comes to sending and receiving mail, and I’m not talking about direct mail campaigns where you’re sending out like a thousand letters. But say if you have a single purchase agreement that you want to send to somebody specifically, or I don’t know, a thank you card or fill in the blank, some single piece of mail. How do you do that when you’re in South Korea? Are you dropping it in the mail in South Korea? Or do you have someplace here in the U.S. where you can not only receive like through a Traveling Mailbox type of solution but also send out mail from the U.S. even though you’re not here?
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. That’s a great question. So, in terms of receiving mail, I use exactly Traveling Mailbox. They’ve been fantastic. Basically, you get mail and they scan and email you a picture of what the mail is. You can then have them open it and forward that to you. In terms of sending mail, I do everything through Pebble. So, I can send neighbor letters through Pebble. I can send thank you cards thank you letters through Pebble. So basically, all my outgoing mail is just done through Pebble, and all that’s kind of one-click sort of stuff.
Seth: And another issue that I didn’t even realize this was a problem for some people, but apparently when you are outside of the U.S. and you don’t have a U.S.-based phone number, it’s very hard to get a text to verify messages. Say, if you’re trying to set up, I don’t know, an account anywhere where it has to send you an SMS text and you have to receive that and click it to confirm. Because apparently even if you have text messaging set up through like a voice online phone service, somehow, they know that’s not a real number and it won’t work. You have to have a literal U.S. phone number with a phone in your hand to get it that way. Do you have a U.S.-based phone number or how are you handling that?
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah, I do. I have a couple of U.S. phone numbers through a service called Talkie, which is very similar to RingCentral or some of those other services. It’s a bit cheaper. I’ve actually had this Google voice number. It’s a New York number that I’ve had since college. And if I ever get dinged on using one of my talkie numbers where it says, this is not a legit number, I use that New York Google voice number and I’ve never had a problem with that. Now I don’t know if that’s just because it’s an old enough number that they know that it’s legit or what, but that seems to work fine.
Seth: I did hear about this website called felixmerchant.com. Never used it. I can’t vouch for it, but apparently, if anybody out there has ever had this issue, you can pay on a per-use basis to get stuff verified, like Gmail accounts or Facebook accounts and that kind of thing. So, if anybody out there is listening to this and they don’t know how to get over the issue, maybe felixmerchant.com can help. It’s worth checking it out.
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. And I’ve heard there are other services that do verified numbers in the U.S. I’m not sure exactly which ones they are, but they’re kind of a step above the RingCentral where they’re legit numbers. It probably costs a little bit more.
Seth: And before we move on, jumping back to my previous question about the sending and receiving of mail. Was there ever a time when you had to get a hard copy notarized in South Korea, and you had wet ink on a piece of paper and that had to be sent to the U.S.? How would you handle that?
Kevin Rockwood: What I would probably do is if I had to literally receive the physical mail, if they can’t send it to me internationally, I would send it to my traveling mailbox and then they can forward it FedEx overnight. It’s usually pretty pricey, but they can do that. That’ll land here the next day. I would take it to the embassy, get it notarized, and then mail it with FedEx here back. So, it would be pricey, but not impossible.
Jaren: When you say pricey, ballpark, how much?
Kevin Rockwood: I think overnight doing a letter-size from Traveling Mailbox is like $30, $40, or something like that. If it’s not overnight, that’s probably a little cheaper. So that’s probably what I would do. Luckily, I haven’t run into that issue yet.
Jaren: Kevin, when you’re in South Korea and you do a lot of interactions with title companies and stuff here in the States, what do you do about time zone? Do you just work at really weird hours of the day? How does that work?
Kevin Rockwood: Honestly, that’s been probably the biggest challenge for me. It’s dealing with time zones. So typically, what I’ll do is wake up early here and kind of batch my calls at 05:00 – 6:00 AM here, where I’ll just have a list of calls that I’m going to make, whether it’s a title company, buyers, or sellers. And I’ll just batch those all in like a two-hour window. In the U.S. that ends up being after noontime, like 02:00 to 04:00, I think is what the Western time zone is. So, it’s not terrible. And honestly, South Korea is like the worst place I could be. It’s like exact opposite of the globe. So, that makes things challenging. But as long as you’re flexible enough to either stay up late or wake up early, you can get around those issues from what I’ve found.
Seth: Something that was brought up in episode 92, when I was interviewing Alicia and Matt was, they have some key people in the U.S. who do things for them on their behalf, when needed. Do you have anybody like that? Like do you have a family member or anybody who can go and do things for you?
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. My brother is in Colorado and he’s actually been doing some of the phone stuff for me. And that’s been great. There are some other services out there like PatLive I know people like, and that you can always hire like a VA who’s in the U.S. I have not needed to do that yet, but it’s definitely something that I’m thinking about. And especially for intake, just responding to voicemails and that sort of thing, it would be great to have somebody in the U.S. So, it’s on my list of things to upgrade on the business.
Seth: And as you look back at the things you’ve learned to date, has anything jumped out to you as surprisingly more difficult than you thought it would be, or other things like “That actually it wasn’t that bad. That was pretty easy?”
Kevin Rockwood: I think that probably the more difficult thing was just managing the phone call stuff and trying to adjust my day to get to that point. Let’s see, all in all, nothing’s been terribly difficult. But some of the things that have been easier than I imagined was the notary thing. I mean, notarize.com takes like 10 minutes and that’s been fantastic. I’ve also got Simplifile setup for the counties that Simplifile works with. That’s also been super easy. The first time it worked, it took my digitally notarized deed and it submitted to the county and the county said it was fine. I was sort of like, “Really? That’s it? It just works?” I thought for sure I’d get yelled at for something, but it just worked. So that’s been pretty good.
One last thing I’ll say is that we kind of live in an amazing time right now. Like the fact that there are so many services out there online, you can really do just about anything online. And this has sort of proved to me that we are living at a point where you don’t need to be physically anywhere to do so much of the day-to-day of a business. And I think doing this exercise of building this business outside of the country has taught me a ton of just about how to organize processes and all that stuff. Because like I said, now I can take this and I can go anywhere. And if I were in the U.S. building a business, I would try to build it in the exact same way where if you find anything, you’re doing requires you to be physically in the U.S. just try to think about how to maybe change that so that you’re not tied to a physical spot. And then once you get everything in place, you can pick up and go anywhere. I know a lot of people have dreams of moving outside of the country. And I think the land business is a great opportunity to be able to do that.
Seth: That’s great advice. I wish I would’ve heard that way back when I was getting started. Granted, I don’t know if all the same services existed at the time, but something that irks me all the time is going to my physical mailbox and getting my mail. I mean, as simple as that is, sometimes I just wish I could like pull up my phone and do the Traveling Mailbox thing and see what people sent me. It’s one of those things, like I could switch it, but it would be like a big migration because a lot of people have that old mailbox address and it would’ve been great if I have just done it right from the get-go.
Jaren: Well, talking about automation and systems and all of that. I want to talk a little bit about Pebble. Like I said, in Seth’s intro, so far Pebble is probably my preferred CRM system tailored specifically for land investing. And I kind of want to just take a little bit of our conversation today and just understand kind of what was the inspiration behind creating that. Just kind of dive into Pebble a little bit. So, what’s the 30- to 60-second backstory of Pebble? And what does it do for the land community at large?
Kevin Rockwood: Like Seth mentioned in the intro, my kind of background is as a programmer. I’ve been a full-time programmer for about 10 years. And when I started getting into the land flipping business, I sort of realized there is so much of this business that can be automated. I started out using the tools that everybody else uses with spreadsheets and Trello and sort of trying to piece together a system like that. And that worked. That’s what a lot of people do and that’s great, but I sort of realized, “Well, hey, I’m a programmer here. I can take this a step further.”
So, I set out to build a software system that runs my business end-to-end. From sending mail to generating documents, to mapping and generating images, all that stuff is the system that I built. And I sort of built it for myself. I just built it as a thing to manage my business and I got a lot of success with it. I sort of started thinking about how I could share this with other people.
And so, I posted it on a few Facebook groups. I think it was REtipster that I posted in. Somebody was asking what people use for CRMs. I showed it off. And that’s when Jessey from REI Conversion reached out and was like, “Hey, I’m talking to a lot of people and they really want something like this. So why don’t we partner up and build this as sort of software that other people can use?” And so that was last May, June. And so, we launched Pebble. So, reiconversion.com/pebble. And we built this out. We launched in August and it’s been great. We’ve got tons of users who just rave about it.
We’re constantly adding new things and building out new features. We’re trying to make this, the system that kind of is tailored toward the land investing community and handles everything front to back.
Jaren: I personally can vouch for it. I’ve seen a lot of different systems out there, and I actually hired a Podio developer to create a suite of Podio apps, like tailored made for my land business. And I switched to Pebble personally because I like it. There are still some things that I have to figure out and kind of tweak toward the new system. But by and large, it’s my preferred CRM system for land investing. I was telling Seth the other day, actually, it’s kind of like the difference between using a Windows computer versus a Mac computer. It feels like you’re using a Mac computer when you use Pebble.
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. We really try to make it as user-friendly as possible. I know that there are some products out there that might be a little older and might not use the modern design aesthetic. So, we’re trying to make this as modern.
Seth: So, is there anything else we should know, Kevin, about just your experience in South Korea or REI Conversion or have we kind of covered all the basics on both of those things?
Kevin Rockwood: I think that people who are thinking about moving internationally and just might be freaked out about the whole thing, I know for me in 2016 when I was going to move here, I sort of was like, “What am I doing? This sounds crazy. How am I going to get a job? What am I doing?” I would just encourage you to do it. I think living outside of the U.S. has opened my eyes to a lot of experiences and different things. And it’s actually given me a lot more respect looking back now. Seeing your country from the outside, you sort of realize like, “Oh, there are some cool things that I never really noticed while I was there.” It’s just something that if you can live outside the U.S. for a piece of your life, I would definitely encourage you to do it.
Seth: Definitely. Is South Korea different from the U.S. in some ways?
Kevin Rockwood: Yes.
Seth: I don’t get it. What’s different about it?
Kevin Rockwood: Well, there’s a language that’s slightly different.
Seth: Do you guys drive a Hyundai?
Kevin Rockwood: We drive a Kia.
Seth: Oh, Kia. Yeah, that’s right. Who makes a better car though? The South Koreans or the Americans?
Kevin Rockwood: I don’t want to cause any problems here… But yeah, I’ve got a major highway outside my window here. And every car is a Hyundai or a Kia or a Damas, which you don’t have in the U.S. Samsung makes cars over here.
Seth: They do? I didn’t know that. That’s cool.
Kevin Rockwood: Samsung makes like everything, literally everything. They make apartment buildings, there’ll be apartment buildings with the Samsung logo on the side of it. Excavators, tanks, they make everything.
Seth: Do they make food or is that where they draw the line?
Kevin Rockwood: They have department stores and restaurants.
Jaren: That’s crazy.
Seth: I had no idea.
Kevin Rockwood: The Korean economy is really weird. We could dive into the history of this, but basically post-Korean war, the government really wanted to rapidly industrialize the countries. So, they basically set up these quasi-government companies with these rich families. And they said, we’ll give you unlimited loans to build this country. And so, Hyundai, Kia, and Samsung are basically these giant pseudo-government companies that just got cash pumped into them. And so, they built everything and sort of relaxed the monopoly laws for them. And that’s sort of what drove the industrialization of Korea.
But yeah, Korea is a very interesting place. The culture is pretty drastically different from the U.S. There’s a lot of things to get used to. But at the end of the day, you sort of realize, everything’s the same, people behave the same. We’re all humans. We just do things a little bit differently.
Seth: Is it true that in a sense, South Korea is sort of like Israel because there’s this constant threat of war from North Korea so everybody’s got to go on the military? At any point, people are ready to go to war if they need to. Is that accurate?
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. I think that is what drove South Korea for the past 40, 50 years. I mean, 60 years since the Korean war ended. So, there was this constant threat of North Korea. Every male in Korea has to do two years of military service. And I think it was sort of the fire that lit the Korean economy. Like we got to be better than the guys up North, because if we’re not, they’re going to come to take us over. So, there was this huge amount of push to rapidly industrialize. And yeah, you see it, there is a speed at which Korea moves that I cannot describe to someone who hasn’t seen it. People just move at lightning pace here. There’s no pausing to do anything. It’s just like, get it done, send me a text message, do this now. And that’s sort of what has driven everything.
I would say these days, they have been living with this threat for 70 years. And I think people are just used to it now that they don’t really think about it day-to-day. I think there’s a sort of a realization that they are the dominant economy now and North Korea really can’t do much aside from yelling and throwing sticks basically. I don’t think it’s top of mind for most people.
Seth: What was the whole reaction just with the developments with Kim Jong-un how he was communicating with Trump? And just the fact that a U.S. president was over there at all doing that, which had never really happened. What did the South Koreans think of all that?
Kevin Rockwood: I think it was like I was thinking of it. It was cautious optimism, but also when he started yelling about nuclear buttons and stuff that really freaked a lot of people out here. I think that it’s sort of open my eyes a little bit to the fact that what the U.S. says does have a lot of weight, especially in a country like South Korea, which is a very close ally to the U.S. Like when people say stuff there’s like that trigger thing, like, please don’t say that. It was an interesting time. Certainly, it was a little scary that 2017 timeframe where there was lots of rhetoric that did freak people out and certainly freaked my family out. And we were sort of thinking like, “Should we move down south for a little while?” Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out I think the way most people were hoping they would. But ultimately the situation is what it is. Hopefully, it changes in the future. I know that there are tons of people here that are waiting for that border to open, and it will be awesome if it does, but I’m not holding my breath.
Jaren: Fun fact about Kazak culture with all this stuff that was going on with communism and North Korea. There was a lot of people that fled to Kazakhstan. They didn’t have an abundance of Napa cabbage available. So, what they did to make kimchi is they used carrots. And so, in a lot of central Asian cultures, and I don’t know, I think some parts of Russia, I’m not sure about Russia, but I know in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, a lot of the central Asian countries, carrot kimchi is a staple. And it’s a staple one in my house as well.
Kevin Rockwood: Yes. It’s funny because they have carrot kimchi here now. So, I wonder if that sort of like made an end round back to South Korea.
Jaren: Yeah. I don’t know it. We should write a book about it. It’d be a book that no one will ever buy, but me. The history of kimchi.
Seth: REtipster will not be publishing that. I think our core audience would care a whole lot.
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. Because South Korea is a very interesting place. If anybody wants to visit here, let me know. I would be happy to show you around Seoul. So, it’s a great country.
Seth: Yeah. I’ve got a friend who is actually South Korean, but he moved to the U.S. But he always talks about how his grandparents, the Korean War, is super personal to them. Like they had siblings that died in the war and stuff. Like, it’s not just some theoretical thing you heard about in history class.
Kevin Rockwood: My mother-in-law talks about remembering having to walk like 30 miles to Busan, which is like the last holdout where the U.S. military was kind of holding on to the corner of Korea and she’s from Daegu. So, she had to walk. She remembers walking down the highway for 30 miles to get to the U.S. lines, hearing artillery shells going off across the mountain. So yeah, it’s something that we can’t really fathom what something like that would be like, but for here, it is very real. And especially the older generation, I have had multiple old people just randomly talk to me on the street and be like, you’re American. And they’re like, thank you for saving us because that was awesome.
Seth: Wow. That’s crazy.
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah. Yeah. I never really expected that, but I didn’t have anything to do with it, but thanks anyways.
Seth: Alrighty. Well, we’re going to do our final three questions with you. So, at the end of many of our shows, not all of them, but something we’d like to do is ask three kind of more personal questions, just to learn a little bit more about how you think and how you operate. So, first question here is what is your biggest fear?
Kevin Rockwood: My biggest fear. Man, since having kids, I think, Jaren, you’ve talked about this as like fear of premature death. I don’t know what it was, but I never thought about that before having kids. And there would just be times where I would really be like, what would happen? What would my family do if something terrible happened to me? Yeah. So that’s certainly my biggest fear.
Jaren: I can totally relate to that. It’s something that I think about a lot because I don’t really have good contingency plans in place if I die. And I’m the primary income provider for the family. So, I think about it quite often. I’m like, man, I got to really get tons and tons and tons of cash so I can buy a bunch of my own properties and I don’t have to worry about it. So, I just replace myself with cashflow in some capacity. Yeah, man, it’s a scary thing. It really is.
Kevin Rockwood: Term life insurance alleviates some of my concerns.
Jaren: Yeah. I got some term life insurance, but it’s only temporary.
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah, yeah. That’s true.
Seth: I think about that too sometimes. There’s like that money side of it. I think maybe as males, that’s kind of what we gravitate toward because that’s our role. It’s to provide and all that stuff. But there’s also emotional, psychological, like man, what a loss to lose a father or a mother for your kids and your spouse. It’s just… Man, I get it and I don’t know what we can do about it other than just try to stay safe and not die.
Kevin Rockwood: We’ll wrap ourselves in bubble wrap and won’t leave the house. That’s the solution.
Jaren: Hey Kevin, what’s something you’re most proud of?
Kevin Rockwood: What am I most proud of?
Jaren: Being on the REtipster podcast, bro.
Kevin Rockwood: This is the pinnacle of life success right here. I am just proud that I’ve sort of made enough things work that I’m not a starving homeless person. I know people are run into situations that make life very difficult and I definitely have empathy for that, but I sort of have to look back at some point and thinking about myself as a high school kid and just having no idea what I was going to do and just being overcome by anxiety of what the future was going to bring and how I was going to make this stuff all work out. And things have worked out for the most part. I mean, granted, they could be better things, they could be a lot worse, but I think I’m just proud that I’m able to have a life that can provide and I can do the things for the most part that I want to do. And yeah, I would love to go back to my high school self and just be like, “Don’t worry about it. You’ll figure it out, enjoy the journey” sort of thing.
Seth: Actually, that’s really healthy and good to reflect on that because there are so many ways to do things wrong and not have things work out and to just work hard at things that lead nowhere. And it’s a significant thing when you get anything to work. In the world we live in, it’s hard to make money. It’s hard to do things that are smashing success. For the most part, you don’t just, “Oops, I just made a million bucks. I just made a bunch of money. I just had success here.” You really need to be intentional about it. So, the fact that you succeed in multiple domains is a pretty cool thing. Something to be proud of, I think.
Kevin Rockwood: Thanks, Seth.
Seth: So final question here. What is the most important lesson you have ever learned?
Kevin Rockwood: Lots of great lessons. I think recently, well, probably in the past couple of years, I’ve really gotten into this idea of FI. Like living financially independent. And I’m not at the point where I’m financially independent, but just learning to think about money in a very honest and open way. I think money for a lot of people is very stressful and something that we don’t look at from a logical standpoint. We’re able to operate logically in our workplace and with our families and stuff but when it comes to money, people just throw logic out the window. And I think that I suffered from some of that too.
And when I found the Choose FI podcast, which is fantastic, and some of the other FIRE movement ideas about really looking at your expenses and what your money is doing and how you’re investing. And really just trying to think about your life in an objective way and asking yourself questions like, “Do I need this new car? Do I need this big house? What is going to make me happy?” and then focusing your money on only those things. That really kind of changed my life and changed the way that I focus, not just on my money, but my time and my effort.
Seth: Yeah. It reminds me of that quote, “The wealthiest person is not who has the most, but who needs the least.”
Kevin Rockwood: That’s exactly what it is. Yeah.
Jaren: Sensei Seth over here.
Seth: That is my genius at work right there. Well, Kevin if people want to find out more about you or about Pebble, remind us again, where do we go to do all that?
Kevin Rockwood: Yeah, you can go to reiconversion.com. We’re actually going to put together a little download pack for you that might be thinking about moving internationally or operating this land business internationally. You can go to reiconversion.com/international, and we’ll have a little thing for you there. Reiconversion.com and check out Pebble. If you want to reach out to Jessey or myself, we can chat with you and show you around, give you a demo. If it’s something that you’d be interested in, we’re more than happy to chat.
Seth: This is episode 96 of the REtipster podcasts. So, we’re going to have the show notes with links to all of the stuff that we mentioned in this conversation if you want to go there and check it out: retipster.com/96. That’s where you can find it all. Thanks again, Kevin. I appreciate you getting up early for us and chatting it up about international land investing. I appreciate it, man.
Kevin Rockwood: Thanks. I appreciate being here.
Seth: So, there you have it, folks, that was our conversation with Kevin Rockwood. Anything jump out to you, Jaron? Anything that you walked away with that you didn’t know yet about Kevin and his situation.
Jaren: I mean, I already knew a lot of it, but again was just very striking on how much I like Kevin, just as a person.
Seth: He’s likable guy. Isn’t he?
Jaren: Yeah, he’s just very easy to talk to. And I just really thought his insights were practical. And to the point, there wasn’t much fluff. It was just a really good interview. I just thought a lot of his insights were just really solid.
Seth: I like what he was saying about, I think I said it too, but just this idea of almost putting a limitation in place, like what if you couldn’t be in the U.S. How would you get this done? Because if you really truly can be independent and realize how many different ways there are to get things done, like that kind of opens up a lot of doors, just in terms of your ability to travel and even save time. Like, when I think of all the time I’ve wasted over the years, just taking needless trips around to the bank or to a mailbox or get a notary signature, all the stuff.
Jaren: I’ve spent many hours driving to meet a seller. It’s not a fun day.
Seth: I guess if you just want to get out of the house or something and you want to do that, I guess that’s fine. But just realizing it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many more efficient ways it can be done these days. So, thanks again, Kevin, for coming on the show. Our little outro question for this episode is if we could live in any other country outside of the U.S. where would we go?
Jaren: Man, I’ve been thinking, thinking, and thinking, since we decided on this question. I think he would have to be either an Asian country of some sort that has really good food or somewhere tropical. And maybe you can do a combination of the two. I don’t know, like Thailand or something. I’ve never been to Thailand so I don’t know. I know that Thailand is on me and my wife’s bucket list. I really want to take her to an all exclusive and do the whole thing and really explore Thailand with her. I know South Korea is actually on her list as well. She’d really like to go to South Korea. I’d like to go to Japan, but live? I don’t know because I haven’t explored that much. I do think doing somewhere like Costa Rica or somewhere in the Caribbean would be really cool too. That’s very much my vibe. A lot of sunshine, a lot of really amazing food. Hawaii, even though it’s not a different country, would probably work really well for me.
Seth: Yeah. So, do you have one? Did you nail down one?
Seth: Okay. That was kind of an evasive answer.
Jaren: Yeah, it totally was a political answer.
Seth: Usually I do that. I just don’t actually answer the question and just vomit a bunch of thoughts. Yeah. For me it would probably be a Spanish speaking country, probably with a tropical climate, which is not hard to find. Many Spanish-speaking countries are like that. I really think as long as the government isn’t like oppressive, there’s a lot of countries in the world where it would be awesome to live there. If you have resources and money, you can make a great life for yourself. So, if I had to pick a specific one, I think there are some coastal places in Mexico that I think would be pretty nice as long as I could steer clear of any drug cartel people.
Jaren: Yeah. I was actually thinking about Mexico too. I have people that are friends that are from a coastal part of Mexico and they say it’s like paradise. They showed me pictures and stuff and man, it looks like Belize.
Seth: Yeah. When I was in high school, I took a couple of trips to Mexico and we went to the opposite of glamorous places of the country. And I don’t know that I’d pick that, but I’ve been to Cancun, which is pretty awesome. And I’ve heard the west coast of Mexico is pretty amazing as well. So maybe I’ll do that. That’ll be my answer for now.
Jaren: Sounds good.
Seth: Cool. Well, if people are out there listening to this on their phones, you can feel free to take out your phone and text the word “FREE” to the number 33777. You can stay up to date on all things REtipster, all the new things that are happening.
And if you guys haven’t checked out our forum yet, go and do that. Go sign up for a free account and you can have all kinds of conversations with other Tipsters in the community and you can learn a lot of stuff there. I learn new stuff there every day when I’m helping other people out and they’re helping me out.
Thanks again for listening everybody. Show notes: retipster.com/96. And hopefully we’ll talk to you again in the next episode.