Get some professional advice/coaching/mentoring from a trusted and experienced source—says Terrell Owens

By Bruce Firestone | Business Coaching

Oct 11
[Excerpt from Gadgets and Gizmos—how to tell if you own a real business or just an expensive hobby  available from,]

I realize this is a somewhat self-serving headline since I am a real estate investment and business coach and my spouse is a California-based CTI[1]-trained life coach, but don’t take my word for it—listen to what former NFL superstar wide receiver Terrell Owens (TO) has to say about coaching—

Terrell Owens in 2017[2]

TO has had a life coach for the last few years. In a 2013 CNN interview, Mr Owens said it made a huge difference in his life and, if he had had a life coach during his playing days, it would probably have made him a better player too. Indeed, if he’d received life coaching during his playing days, he continued, maybe he’d still be playing now.

Listen to the way Terrell felt before he reached out to get himself a life coach:

“I was lost. You know—you know, being TO, being that star athlete, all the pressures, me putting a lot of pressure on myself, you know, to be the best… for me it’s been humbling. Me having to just sit, you know, sit in the house. I’ve lost friends…Because I count on one hand, you know, the friends that I can really count on and call to—and call on and really confide in, you know—you know, during my darkest times and my darkest hours,” Terrell Owens speaking with Graham Bensinger about his situation, September 9th, 2013

Without a doubt, the other area of coaching most athletes need help with is managing their financial affairs. A huge number of highly paid professional athletes are broke at the end of their careers or within three to five years thereafter (nearly 80% in the NFL according to SI, Sports Illustrated[3]).

Every player has people around him or her (agents, friends, family, hangers-on, lawyers, accountants, bankers, entourage and sock people) who have can’t-miss business propositions. It’s nothing to blow a million dollars or two or four these days on a new, failed bar or restaurant not to mention millions more on dubious loans, ruined marriages, stupid business models, inflated purchases in multiple cities…

Sports teams, in my opinion, and their leagues should make a concerted effort to educate their players in this regard and players should never delegate control over their financial affairs to anyone but themselves. Having said that, they need to find financial coaches who actually know what they are doing.

Remember, even if you have $5 million in cash in your bank account at the end of your career, invested in, for example, highly secure US treasury bills at, say, 2.76% per annum for 30 years[4], this is only $138,000 per year before tax. If you were making $10 million a year and now you have to live on $138,000, well, that’s a big downward adjustment. If you take too much time to make that adjustment, it isn’t long before you are broke.

So, if a decent financial coach can goose their returns to 6% (which is our minimum target in terms of capitalization rate in real estate) without doing anything stupid, that’ll make a huge difference to any athlete’s post-retirement lifestyle.

You might be surprised at how many people (guilty!) do the same things year after year, time after time, only to get the same lousy results. A coach with a solid “mental map of the way the world works” can short-circuit that, and accelerate you down the path to personal, business, and career success.

Why am I a good coach?

Because I have made nearly every mistake you can; I’ve been in plenty of tough situations where, like all entrepreneurs, I was forced to deploy my creativity to the maximum, to pull rabbit after rabbit out of my hat to avoid failure.

Think about it—I’ve been a professor, a real estate developer, a tech guy[5], a hockey guy, a keynote speaker, a writer, a realtor, a coach, and I’ve lived and worked all over the world. My random walk through life has given me a (possibly) unique perspective on life, one I now share with my clients and students. But from a financial POV, it’s almost always better to find something (ONE THING) you are passionate about doing, something that is well-suited to your skillset, something that makes money and is easy (mostly) to market and sell, something that all your instincts scream at you, This is it, brother (or sister). This is my WHY. Eureka, I finally found it!

When you find it, stick with it, grow it, never sell it.

“Bruce’s keynote presentations, books and coaching are inspiring, entertaining, educational and to the point. He took the time to learn about our organization, our goals and exactly what we wanted to achieve,” George Tierney, Director, Marketing Services, Guildcrest Homes

Through my coaching practice, I can fundamentally change people’s lives for the better.

How do I know that?

Because I see it every week, every month in the hundreds of people I’ve coached… they have greater confidence that they’re on the right track, that they’ll make more money, that they’ll have more control over their own destiny, and that they are doing what they are passionate about but within an organized, focused and accountable structure and business model. Even in real estate, we start with a business model—one that is highly differentiated and also one that is repeatable and scalable… there is a big difference between a one-off project and a business model.

The career of Raghib (Rocket) Ismail, a former NFL and CFL player

Rocket Ismail made between $18 and $20 million in salary alone (ie, not including his side sponsorship earnings) during his playing days. According to a March 23rd, 2009 Pablo S Torre Sports Illustrated article, How (and Why) Athletes Go Broke[6], Rocket invested in many failed ventures including:

-a “fail-proof, with no downsides” (according to one of his advisers) Rock N’ Roll Café

-a religious movie (that tanked)

-a music label called COZ Records, promoted by a guy who was “a real good talker”

-a cosmetics procedure whereby oxygen was absorbed into the skin (squashed by existing behemoth pharma players)

-a plan to create nationwide phone-card dispensers

-shops dubbed It’s in the Name, where tourists could buy framed calligraphy of names or proverbs of their choice

As founder of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, I’ve seen countless well-paid athletes end their careers with little or nothing to show (financially) for all that training and effort. Everyone needs a co-active coach to help them find their way through an increasingly complex professional world and personal life.

“I don’t take responsibility for my actions, unless it’s someone else’s fault,” anonymous client

Coaching professional athletes

I would add that every professional player and high net worth individual needs to not only get his or her spending under control, but to have an investment program to go along with that… one that is focused on providing a predictable retirement income for life plus some inflation protection.

There is no better way, we have found, to do that than through real estate investing; ie, there has to be a better way, and there is…

Here’s what we recommend:

  1. Set aside 10% to 20% of a player’s after-tax income each year to invest in real estate
  2. Invest the bulk of this conservatively in residential rentals, the lowest risk real estate in most cases since… everyone needs a home
  3. Invest in one or at most two cities[7], places where their economies are flourishing, supported by at least six independent engines of growth[8] such as government, education, healthcare, technology, education, tourism, transportation, fulfillment, research and development, finance and fintech, real estate, industrial production, content creation, festivals and arts…
  4. Put together a team of trusted advisers to buy, finance, animate, lease/rent, and manage an above-average performing real estate portfolio
  5. Record only one name on title, which would be yours, and possibly your children or spouse; no one in your entourage, no adviser, no one else would be on title… ever
  6. Hold all real estate in your personal name not in a corporation no matter what so-called tax advantages might be possible via incorporation—KISS or Keep it Simple or, put another way, complexity is the enemy of success
  7. In this way, these investments cannot “run away” or be taken away or be refinanced or be sold or traded or pledged without your express written agreement
  8. Your strategy is to buy, hold, animate, drive up revenues and returns, refinance, take money out tax-free to invest in still more property (in a rinse and repeat process) until the desired size of portfolio is reached, after which your goal is to pay down mortgages as quickly as possible until a debt-free situation is reached

Let’s take a simple example.

Say you are making $5 million per year after tax and you decide to devote 20% of that to buying houses, ones with a decent cap (capitalization) rate (of say 6% pa) in a good location, which is experiencing 3% pa inflation in real estate over a long period of time.

And let’s further suppose you can buy these places for $500,000 with 20% down or $100,000 in cash (ignoring for simplicity any closing costs). The rest is financed with standard mortgages from reliable lenders.

This means you can buy ten such homes per year for a period of (suppose) ten years.

Hence, you end your career owning 100 homes in your own name[9] worth more than $50,000,000. More because of 3% per annum inflation in real estate values.

Since we know your cap rate is 6%[10], it’s easy to figure out your NOI, net operating income, from your portfolio after you have retired all your mortgage debt. It is $50,000,000 x 6% or $3 million per year, assuming no inflation.

You should also note that your retirement income from your portfolio of $3 million per annum is bound to go up as your property manager raises rents every year. #Nice

In addition, the value of your real estate is (in this example) increasing 3% pa or more than $1.5 million a year. This isn’t cash money but it’s still yours.

If you ever need any funds, you don’t have to sell any of your buildings. You simply refinance it, take the cash out tax-free, and then watch as your tenants pay off your mortgage again or your line of credit.

This is, as my late father, professor OJ Firestone would say is your “iron reserve.” It also can be your PB4L, personal business for life.

Your job is to keep it intact and then pass it on safely to your heirs, and to never pledge it for loans to, say, buy an NHL franchise or a Rock N’ Roll Café.

In some research we did a few years ago, it turned out that 61 of the top 100 richest families in Canada had all or substantially all their wealth invested in real estate, so we believe that real property should form part of nearly everyone’s financial plan.

Lastly, do you know what the number 1 thing in life is? Love? Money? Fame? Success? No, none of the above.

It’s trust.

Place your trust in yourself and bricks and sticks too.

If you would like to know more about our co-active life coaching, real estate investment and business coaching and how you too can become an equity lord, please contact the author.


Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (civil), M Eng-Sci, PhD
Real Estate Investment and Business coach
ROYAL LePAGE Performance Realty broker
Ottawa Senators founder




[1] CTI stands for Co-Active Training Institute; it is the largest organization of its type in the world.

[2] Image source: Collision Conf from New Orleans, Louisiana, USA – SM0_8910, CC BY 2.0,

[3] SI reports that 78% of NFL players are either bankrupt or under financial stress within two years of retirement and 60 percent of National Basketball Association players are broke within five years of leaving their sport. The average length of career in professional sports is relatively short: 3.3 years in the NFL; 4.6 years in the NBA; and 5.6 years in MLB, According to ESPN, the average length of an NHL player is around 5-years.

[4] Source: as of December 1st, 2017:

[5] For example, I was vice-chair, of CIRA, Canadian Internet Registry Authority, the organization in charge of the dot-CA cc (country code) at a time when it was just being rolled out. It was an era when US-based dot-COM was dominant in Canada, and the nation was in danger of losing its identity in what Neal Stephenson, in his short 1992 science fiction masterpiece, Snow Crash, described as the emerging metaverse. I wanted to give every Canadian their own FREE dot-CA at birth; if your new baby’s name is Lily Madison Bell, she would get a free dot-CA ( for life. This was a bridge too far for my fellow directors (too expensive! they said) but I still like the idea… [Just in case you think I am a complete hypocrite, what with my personal website being, type into your search bar “” and see where it resolves to.]  

[6] Source,

[7] For pro athletes, they often want to invest in their hometowns as a way to giveback to their communities as well as provide for themselves and their families this way. 

[8] My hometown of Ottawa Canada has six (main) economic engines: tech, government, healthcare, education, tourism and real estate.  

[9] We recommend (not only to pros but also to regular folks like you and me) that you own your own properties in your own name. That is, you are registered on title. Maybe you pay more income tax this way (maybe), but it’s much simpler and you have no on-going compliance costs to manage and maintain one or many companies that own your real estate or PB4L. You also don’t have to do (complex) corporate income tax returns and expensive financial statements. By being on title in your own personal name, no one—not a spouse, a lawyer, an agent, a buddy, a company, an accountant, a caregiver—can pledge, sell, refinance or otherwise impact your property ownership without your written agreement, which, if you follow Prof Bruce’s model, you will never agree to—it’s buy ‘n hold for at least 3-generations. In many jurisdictions, you can add your adult children on title as joint tenants for “love and affection and a dollar,” which means, when you pass away, you are simply eliminated from title and your kids or grandchildren inherit directly without any executors, IRS or CRA agents, lawyers, bankers, lenders, accountants, probate or probate tax getting in the way. If you have five children like I do and you have 5 properties, you can add one child when s/he turns 18 on title for each property thereby eliminating squabbles in the next generation as to who owns what and what they may decide to do with it (keep it, sell it, refinance it…)

[10] That’s the goal we set today for our going-in cap rate, higher (around 8 to 11% pa) for rural property or small towns where property appreciation tends to be less so you make up for that with higher cash returns, which is what a higher cap rate infers…

Feature images, sources:

By Zoroloco at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Premeditated Chaos using CommonsHelper., Public Domain,

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.