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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Interview with Tom Brickman, The Frugal Gay

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the Path of Financial Independence.

It is one of our joys here at RetireEarlyLifestyle to bring to our Readers interviews of people who have found their own unique ways to obtain financial "critical mass".

Tom, who calls himself The Frugal Gay on his social media, has wowed his followers time and again with his ability to remodel older homes and resell them at profit. He owns properties in Ohio and Texas.

Enjoy this interview with Tom!

Young man with a ball cap on.

Tom Brickman

Retire Early Lifestyle: Could you tell our Readers a little about yourself? When did you start your journey to Financial Independence? What was your motivation? What turned the light on for you to think outside of box?

Tom:  I started exploring this when I realized job hopping wasnít going to fix my issues. I wanted ownership of time. I saw very early the power of real estate. So, I used real estate to buy ownership of my time. It took me approximately 17 years, from my age of 21 to 39 to hit this goal.

REL: We understand that you used to sell bras on eBay. How did that get started? Do you still sell on eBay?

Tom:  I started out of necessity. Gap offered tuition reimbursement, but I had to buy books, parking passes and all things that go with college. I started selling purses, 2 at a time. They were $1.50 and I was selling them for around $60 to $70each. This helped me pay for a semester of college. Yes, I absolutely still sell on eBay. Itís a safety blanket. I sell more during months when my real estate expenses are high and I sell less when I just need downtime to chill.

REL: You also worked at Gap. How did you get from working at Gap to remodeling houses?

Tom:  Gap was my high school job. It helped me get through college. House remodeling kicked in high gear in 2009 when I saw I couldnít afford nice fancy houses. I needed to take what I could afford and make them nice and fancy. 

REL: Were you always handy with tools, how did you learn your construction skills?

Tom:  I wasnít and am not! I can step in and do some small stuff but I built a team around me that can crush it. This team makes me look good. It was a slow process, but I made friends with a guy who did tile and expanded my team when and if I could. 

A remodeled single home

One of Tom's remodels

REL: Have you had any failures in your Remodeling/Rental business?

Tom:  Absolutely. I bought a house in 2005 and sold it for a 22k loss in 2016. I over paid. I also made lots of mistakes early in my career. Fancy finishes donít always mean long-lasting

REL: How do you choose properties to remodel? What are your criteria, what do you look for?

Tom:  This year Iíve bought 4. I always look at ďcĒ class, blue collar type neighborhoods. Single family and typically ones at a steep discount because of being dated or neglected. These typically make the best returns.

REL: Do you do all the work yourself or do you hire out contractors?

Tom:  I hire contractors in both states. I project manage the projects though. Meaning I pick finishes, contractors and set the budgets.

REL: How long have you been doing this?

Tom:  Real estate - 20 years now. I turned 41 a few months ago. Ė I chased financial freedom for 17 years till I hit it at 39.

REL: How do you determine the rental amount? Is it based on comparables in the neighborhood or on the amount of money you have invested in the property?

Tom:  I look at all metrics, cash on cash return, comparables, and economic outlook. If the city has growth happening in certain neighborhoods. I typically want to be in those or close to those.

The interior of a remodeled home

The interior of one of Tom's remodels

REL: Do you do background checks and credit scores on your renters?

Tom:  Absolutely. In 2015 Zillow started providing this and it has made my daily life so much better.

REL: Do you use a property manager? If so, what percentage to you pay them?

Tom:  I have a manager on 2 at 10% of rent. An hourly contract employee on 13 of them at $20/hr and I self-manage 9 local ones close to me in Dallas TX.

REL: Do you budget or track your spending? Are you on track for FI? (Financial Independence)?

Tom:  I do. Yes, still on track. I just love reinvesting my income, so I keep picking up new properties.





REL: Do you determine the fixtures and color schemes yourself? If so, how did you learn this?

Tom:  I do. I pull inspiration from magazines tv shows and places Iíve visited. I am just finishing my second ďboho styleĒ house and it was inspired by some of the places I visited in New Mexico.

REL: Do you have any tips for our readers about remodeling and selling homes if they wanted to do this themselves?

Tom:  Donít bite off more than you can chew! HGTV makes it look easy. Itís not. Missing small things can cost thousands of dollars. I missed a plumbing issue last year & it cost me 10k to fix this year. So, proceed w caution. Especially when starting out.

A remodeled property

Another example of a remodel

REL: Can you share with us anything about how your portfolio is structured? Are you 100% in Real Estate or do you own liquid assets as well? If so, what percentage of your Net Worth are they?

Tom:  Iím 70% real estate, 25% stocks and 401k with a few alternative investments, and around 5% cash.

REL: Interest rates thus mortgages have moved higher in a short time frame. Has this effected your outlook and or opportunities in the real-estate market?

Tom:  Itís slowed me down some, but Iíve still bought 4 properties this year. If it makes sense at 8% interest it's going to be a home run at 4-5% interest when and if I can refinance.

REL: What are your greatest passions in life?

Tom:  I absolutely love taking garbage and turning it into something great. Showing others this over the past few years has also been truly awesome. 

REL: How do you contribute to the world?

Tom:  I try to educate others, volunteer my time at a local charity, and donate when it makes sense. Iíve actually turned 4 of my tenants into home owners over the years. I love sharing financial literacy  

REL: Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Tom:  Iíd say in 7 years I see my partner leaving his job and we'll travel abroad. For the next 5, I plan on continuing to grow my brand and my portfolio. Possibly some different asset classes. We will see how things progress.

Tom and family members





REL: What is your biggest splurge?

Tom:  I bought a new car in cash. That was nice to be able to hand over 34k and not stress over monthly payments.

REL: Is there a happiness mantra or motto that you've found to be very helpful?

Tom:  Iím trying my best right now. Iíve failed many times. But I get up and try again the next day.

REL: If you could give any advice to a younger you, just starting out this journey, what would it be?

Tom:  Buy more real estate! I passed on many great deals being conservative. 

REL: What do you do for fun or entertainment?

Tom:  Travel, spend time with family, go real estate shopping and hang out with our dog Aldi.

REL: I understand that you keep a blog with your stories about remodeling homes and selling them. Where can people find your blog?

Tom:  I do.  and on all other social media you can find me @Thefrugalgay11.

REL: What are you most excited about right now?

Tom:  New projects on the horizon. Things I havenít tried yet. Iike additional types of real estate.

REL: If you had a warning label, what would yours say?

Tom:  Proceed with cautionWhen all else fails Spaghetti will fix most issues.

REL: What has been the highlight of your year? 

Tom:  2023 has been a rough year. Iíve lost a sibling and my dog woodie. Highlight would have to be having the ability to be with my sister when she needed me. We named the Airbnb after her, itís called The ďKatie LeeĒ and itís located in Toledo Ohio. The first paid guest was actually a film studio that did interviews for a true crime documentary. This was a huge deal to my sister and to me to have her house in this documentary. It hasnít come out yet, but itís called People Magazine investigates.

REL: What legacy do you want to leave on Earth once youíre gone?

Tom:  Iím an Art fanatic, and I try to show that in my houses. I have set up properties that I wanted donated off when I go and I'm also working towards setting up a hospice-type property for those in the LGBT community who donít have places to go in their final time on this planet.

We at RetireEarlyLifestyle would like to thank you, Tom, for your willingness to share your wisdom about utilizing real estate to get to FIRE. We are so sorry about the loss of your sister and your beloved dog. Hopefully, going forward next years will be gentler to you.


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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on


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