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A millionaire at 22. That’s the story of Pretoria property entrepreneur Albert van Wyk, who last month launched a book detailing how he made his first million. But like all stories there’s more to it than meets the eye.
In his self-published book, A Millionaire at 22, Van Wyk — who is now 24, still lives with his parents and uses a second-hand cellphone — describes how as a 19-year-old fresh out of school he used the money he would’ve received from a bursary as a down payment to acquire property.
A little help from dad
Writes van Wyk: “After a long debate I made a deal with my dad. The deal stated that if I was able to secure a bursary to study at the University of Pretoria, I could keep the bursary money and invest it in any investment of my choice. My dad still had to pay for my studies.”
So when everyone else took their June-July holiday in matric, he was locked away studying to ensure that he was able to secure the marks he needed to get the bursary.
With the bursary money in hand, he approached an investor with a proposal to put down more money for him to acquire his first property, which he planned to convert into a student digs.
‘I always wanted to be in a position where I can tour the world or buy a race car if I wanted to’
“If you think about it, any person that owns a house that has been paid off can go to the bank and get a bond on that house.. so if you have the correct financial experience and set up and vision you can approach those five people… and say you need this amount of capital…”
Despite this, he says he still had to push his parents to convince them of his idea, because they were of the belief that he should rather study and get a nine-to-five job.
After selecting a property and moving on to renovating the place, he kept his expenses low by using second-hand items or cheap supplies and by doing the labour himself, together with his father — who works as an engineer in the construction sector.
“People who rent don’t care if the paving on one side looks slightly different to the other side,” added Van Wyk.
In one instance he was able to do renovation on his second house for R300 000 by doing it himself, rather than pay R800 000 that one contractor quoted him.
Still at home with folks
So why then is he still staying at his parents’ house? “To keep all the money in the pen,” he says.
“I could go out and get my own flat and pay rent every month, but I’d rather take all of the capital and all of the income that I get from my properties and push it into the next property,” he says.
Today he has four properties — two houses and two apartments — adding that while it took him four years to pay off the first property, it took him just two years for the second. “After that I will be able to buy properties every month, if you keep all the money in there,” he says.
Still using second-hand cellphone
So what is he doing with his millions? Nothing much.
Van Wyk isn’t living the high life. In fact he still uses a second-hand cellphone. In his book he suggests readers should save 30% of their income. But Van Wyk says he’s saving more like 70% of his earnings presently.
Most of his wealth is locked up in property — with over a million rand in net wealth through the value of his properties, which he claims are now “growing exponentially”.
“I can go out and buy the latest car, but then I would have to take money from my investments, from my properties to fund this, and this would set me back at least three, or two years,” he says.
Promising small businesses?
And what about those small businesses he says have helped him along?
Van Wyk recently quit his job as an industrial engineer after a year to spend more time on his businesses. He’s currently involved in a number of businesses, including a web development, branding and social media business called Gazzaroo.
“They’re growing well,” he says, but quickly adds that he’s not necessarily “reaping a lot of capital” from them at the moment.
The book itself however is selling well. Van Wyk has already sold 70 copies since the book was launched on 25 May. Retailing through his website, e-copies go for R85 and hardcopies for R135.
Advice for older people
So why did he do it?
“The reason why I decided to start writing the book is that I had a lot of friends that were older, like lets say 30, 45 or older… I used to tell them about all of my little businesses that I have and things that I’m doing and they would after our conversation tell me ‘Albert if I knew what you just told me now when I was 20 or 22, my life would have been completely different.’
“They say now I’m stuck in a day job, I’m stuck and I can’t do anything else. My income barely covers my mortgage and car loan and I can’t really take up a risk because I have family and kids. But if I knew what you’re telling me now about your properties and small businesses when I was your age it would have really made a difference in my life,” he says.
Throughout school he was always hustling, selling things like toys to fellow classmates to make tuckshop money. At the age of about 16 he began reading motivational books. What drove him to want to succeed, he says, was his father having to work long hours as a residential engineer.
“Throughout growing up I always saw that and I always wanted to say look, I would want to be in a position where I can tour the world or buy a race car if I wanted to,” he says.
He also suffers from a rare condition of the nervous system, where messages from his brain to make his heart beat can stop at any time. A few years ago his heart stopped beating, he turned blue and had to be rushed to hospital. This has given him an appreciation for how short life is.
“It just puts you in a position where you have to reflect and say ‘look what am I doing with my life, am I moving forward, am I happy where I am today’,” he says.
Not novel concepts
Most of the concepts in his book he admits are drawn from motivational writers such as Robert Kiyosaki and Richard Templer, and entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson.
“The book is really a mixture of all the knowledge that I have acquired from reading all of those books and blogs… and also my personal experience, because I took these concepts from the books and blogs and I’ve implemented them and seen which of them work and don’t work,” he says.
With the book launched, his plan now is to speak at schools to help learners to gain more insight into how to create a good investment. So far he has three schools lined up to visit in coming weeks. He is also considering starting a web platform to help entrepreneurs to answer their questions.
“I think it would be great if the youth can go out and reach for their dreams and not necessarily do a day job to survive,” says Van Wyk.