Terminal Velocity - Michael Romeo - Nova

Terminal Velocity – Michael Romeo

Vanessa Warwick from Property Tribes presents a thought-provoking and inspiring interview with Michael Romeo, who is suffering from terminal cancer. The diagnosis prompted Michael to look at his financial situation and secure it for his wife and daughter, and his learnings have resulted in his book “Terminal Velocity”. Paul Mahoney, MD of Nova Financial, is a childhood friend of Michael’s and wanted to bring this story to the property community. You can buy the book here.

 

Vanessa Warwick:

Hello everybody and welcome along to this Zoom call. It’s actually between the UK and Australia, Brisbane to be precise. And I’m joined by Paul Mahoney, the M.D. of Nova Financial and also Michael Romeo who’s the author of a new book called Terminal Velocity, which is about his battle with terminal cancer. And guys, thank you very much for joining me on this call and I think it’s very, very interesting times to have this call because in the last two months, the entire world has gone through a recalibration of what matters in life, that balance between the work life balance. And I think before we come to Michael, if I could go to you Paul, just give us the background of the genesis of your thoughts about bringing this interview to the property community.

Paul Mahoney:

Yeah. Michael and I grew up in the same area, small beach area of just north of Sydney. Friends of friends and heard about Michael’s story through those friends and it really hit home for me first off, somebody that I know that has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But then when I saw that he published the book and then it was very focused around the financial side of that and the realizations he’d made and then wanting to pass it on to other people, obviously very selfless when going through a situation like that. I thought it would be worth bringing that to the UK and to the Property Tribes viewers and now database as well.

Paul Mahoney:

So far, it’s helped me realize about not being complacent. A lot of people sit on the fence for far too long. They under-utilize what they’ve got. They take things for granted and I was hoping that bringing this story to the viewers would allow some people to stop those things. Get off the fence, start taking action, start improving their financial position. All those things that are a positive thing that maybe hearing a story like this could help them with.

Vanessa Warwick:

Yeah, definitely. And Paul, you’ve touched on many of the themes that have arisen in Michael’s book and Michael, if we could come to you. Well first of all, I just want to say people always say, “How are you doing,” as a flippant question. But in your case, genuinely how are you doing?

Michael Romeo:

Yeah, really good at the moment. I’m focused on day-by-day and today, it’s been a really good day. So for me at the moment, that’s all that matters really. So yeah. All things considered, I’m doing really well. So thanks for having me on and taking the time to share the story as well.

Vanessa Warwick:

Well, it’s a genuine pleasure and a privilege, Michael, to have you on this call. If we could just go back Michael to when you found out about your cancer diagnosis. At first, you didn’t realize the severity of it. You had some time to process it and start coming to terms with it. But I really wanted to start this call where you found out that it was actually terminal and you were told that you had a finite amount of time to live, and I wondered what processes went through your mind when you got that information? How did you process it and what conclusions did you draw to make the most of your remaining time?

Michael Romeo:

Yeah. So that was June last year when the doctors upgraded me to terminal. And at that point, they told me, I had six to 12 months to live. So it was quite a shock. I went to the doctors feeling physically fit and I was feeling mentally really good. So to be told all of a sudden you only have a certain amount of time left, it was quite a surreal moment. But to add to that, once they told me, I had come to the realization that I hadn’t prioritized my health, my insurances, my finances. So if I was to pass away as the doctors predicted, then I would be leaving nothing behind but a debt to my wife and family. And that in itself was heard a lot more than the fact that I’d been diagnosed with the cancer because to see what that effect has on your family and your loved ones is really hard to sit back and see. So that was, yeah, a big regret at that point.

Vanessa Warwick:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). And then when did you come up with the idea to write this book and what was the purpose of the book?

Michael Romeo:

So after I was diagnosed with the cancer, my wife and I had came across a strategy which is… It’s using the banking tools available to us and it enables you to pay chunks of your non-tax deductible debt, your mortgage, which is an amortized interest. And you simply use a line of credit or a simple interest line of credit from the bank. And by using these tools, it enables you to pay down your mortgage in a fraction of the time. So my wife and I, we had nothing to lose at this point. For me, it’s become a race against time. So we implemented this strategy and to my surprise at the time, it was so easy to implement, but it had massive effects on the financial side of it. So all of a sudden, it became a race against time for me. So if I can live and work for three years, I can be mortgage free.

Vanessa Warwick:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael Romeo:

And just talking with friends and family about my situation in terms of not prioritizing my finances, not prioritizing my insurances and what I was finding out at the time, all of a sudden I was writing a book for my wife and daughter, an autobiography. But then after speaking with so many people and I was getting the same feedback from a lot of people. So I then ended up combining my whole situation in terms of prioritizing our finances, what I found out about insurances and obviously I put step-by-step how we implemented this banking strategy, because over the course of one year, we’ve saved ourselves tens of thousands of dollars by just simply using the banking tools available to us. And they’re available to everybody, not just myself. So that’s how the book came about, just simply by talking to people and realizing that I was not the only one with the same type of attitude.

Vanessa Warwick:

Indeed, and I guess what you’re really saying is that you used the book to make your hindsight other people’s foresight. So you had been forced into learning these lessons about achieving financial stability and so on for your family. And Paul, I think it’s interesting because I think one of the key themes of Michael’s book is to live in the now. And if we bring that into the context of property, we’re always saying you can’t buy property in the past, you can’t buy property in the future. Now is all we have and we don’t know what curve balls life is going to throw at us. And Michael’s story is a prime example of that.

Paul Mahoney:

Yeah, exactly right. I think a very apt adage that sometimes people throw around is that the best time to buy property was 20 years ago. And the second best time is now.

Vanessa Warwick:

Don’t have a time machine.

Paul Mahoney:

No, and Michael said that before we got on this chat. We should have known that 10, 20 years ago. It would have started then. And so many people sit on the sidelines. So many people are constantly saying to us, especially now with the economic worries and things like that, “Should I wait until this is all over and then do something?” And the thing is, you wait and then nothing really happens because the property market moves slowly. Then something else comes up. We had Brexit, now we’ve got COVID and we’ll have something else in six to 12 months, which will be a reason to wait. And then people get to late in life, or even worse, they have a situation like Michael has, that you realize, “Well, shit. Maybe it’s too late now.” So yeah. I’m a big believer in taking action now and best utilizing your resources now to plan for the future rather than waiting.

Vanessa Warwick:

No, totally, totally subscribed to that and we do have a number of conversations and discussions on Property Tribes along those lines. And Michael, we touched at the beginning about the COVID-19 crisis which has affected the entire world. Prior to this, I would imagine that you felt quite isolated when you learned the news that you learned. There are actually no words that anybody can say to make it better for you. We can only send you love and compassionate thoughts. But now we’ve had this massive Control-Alt-Delete of coronavirus, are you hopeful that your message will be amplified through people reflecting on what coronavirus has done to everybody’s lives and how it’s changed them forever?

Michael Romeo:

Yeah, I think it will. I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback at the moment surrounding the book and for what it is, the COVID situation has just made everyone realize how precious life really is. And what I try and get and speak about in the book is obviously we take on a 30 year mortgage, which is a lifetime, and if we can use the banking tools better to our advantage, if we can get out of that 30 year mortgage in say 10 or 15 years, people are going to have a better quality of life because the financial pressures and the financial burden that we carry around in this day and age is going to be free in such a short time. And as I said for myself, I realized this too late and I only wish I had implemented this strategy many years ago.

Michael Romeo:

But for the book, if I can put it out there and people can take my situation and just stop and think about what they’re actually doing and just have a look at the important things around in life and make those changes for a positive outcome in their own lives. For me, that’s taking a bad situation and turning it into a good situation for me, and it makes it all worthwhile.

Vanessa Warwick:

Well, that would be an incredible legacy to do that. Did you feel that what’s happened to you, it changed your attitude completely towards money, finance, health and if so, how?

Michael Romeo:

Yeah, it did and a lot of people ask me how I feel about being diagnosed with cancer and honestly, I wouldn’t change being diagnosed because it has forced me to change my attitude. It has forced me to reassess the small things in life and actually take notice of these things and if I hadn’t been diagnosed with cancer, I would still be doing what I was doing. And I would still be in the rat race of life. I would still be struggling with the mortgage and the cashflow and have all these pressures and stress. They would still be there. I would not have changed and I can honestly say that. And I was forced to change. I had this illness now and I’m hoping by, again, sharing my story that can force people to use my situation to better theirs and not wait for something like that to happen.

Vanessa Warwick:

Reading some articles about you Michael, it seems that you’ve come to terms with your situation. Does it give you a feeling of peace that you have secured the financial future of your family? You’ve got a young daughter, I believe, haven’t you?

Michael Romeo:

Yeah. She’s five, just turned five the other week. So yeah, I think accepting the situation has been a crucial part in dealing with the whole cancer diagnosis and by accepting that, it’s enabled me to make decisions and rational decisions and educate myself in my situation and what’s happening. And obviously, that also includes educating myself in the strategy that we have implemented and how that’s working and as again, it’s working for me. If I can live and work for three years, I can be mortgage free and that’s all because I didn’t have the correct insurances in place in the first place. So now for me, it’s a race against time to reach financial freedom, which is a goal for many people I assume around the world. So we’re all in the same boat.

Vanessa Warwick:

Indeed, and I think it brings really into sharp focus the need for wills, succession planning and all those things that people just tend to put off. And I’m guilty of that myself actually. I’ve only just recently started to get my will together and I think it’s because we don’t believe that it will happen to us. And that’s not a good mindset to have if you’re trying to create a financial future for your family and leave a legacy. I think Paul, everything that we’re talking about, that Michael’s talking about, it’s about being financially educated. You don’t get taught this stuff in school. We try and do it through our respective platforms. But Paul, your approach is very holistic as well, isn’t it? Looking at all of these different elements for investors and make sure that everything is set up correctly for them.

Paul Mahoney:

Yeah. Look, I think first of I have to say it’s a testament to Michael so far as using this experience that he’s had to not only make sure that his family is best looked after, try to speed, accelerate that process as much as possible, but also help other people out. The fact that he changed his book from being about his life for his family, to being about helping other people, I think that that is very selfless in his situation. I can’t even comprehend what I would be like in his situation. I think I would be much more selfish. But that’s the only thing I can assume.

Vanessa Warwick:

Yeah.

Paul Mahoney:

But yes. Sorry, back to your point Vanessa. You’re right. Everyone puts off insurance, everyone puts off wills, everyone puts off thinking about these negative things that unfortunately can and do happen. And that is without doubt something worth doing yesterday and therefore you can’t do it yesterday, so do it today. And also we talk about mostly property obviously, Vanessa, on your platform and us as well. We’re very property focused. But you need other things to support that and property is probably a little bit more exciting so far as building wealth, but also being proactive with doing that and not being complacent, as we mentioned, is very important. Your best utilizing what you’ve got, which I think Michael’s a perfect example of that. He’s realized where he is. He’s done everything he can to make the most out of it because he’s had that stark realization that hopefully most people can… Well, some people can take away from listening to this that maybe this can be their stark realization without it needing to be a real negative thing.

Vanessa Warwick:

No, absolutely. I think it’s interesting people get into property for many, many reasons. But what better reason could there be than to leave a legacy for your family and for them to be financially secure, should you pass away. Well, we’re all going to pass away one day, of course. But it comes being a sooner event than a natural lifetime. And I think this is a point I wanted to bring up because in part of the sector, we see people wanting to create wealth so they can drive flashy cars and have big houses. And that to me is not an admirable goal really. I think that to create wealth, the best possible way to utilize it is for the benefit of other people. And obviously Michael, I think you would agree with that, wouldn’t you?

Michael Romeo:

Yeah, definitely. One thing you ask a lot of people nine times out of 10, you say, “What’s your most valuable asset?” They will tell you it is their house or their car, their yacht, anything like this. But it is definitely your health. Your most valuable asset is your health. And number one, you need to make sure we ensure our things like our houses, our cars, all this sort of stuff, but do we take notice of what insurances we have on our own life? And that is the most valuable asset that we can ensure, and I found that out the hard way. I had the arrogant attitude that I was young, fit and nothing would happen to me. And I’m in the situation I am in now.

Michael Romeo:

So that was a very hard pill to swallow once that actually happened. And going back to what you were talking about is people look at wealth as having the flashy cars and big houses and everything like that. Today, it’s all about consumption. We consume on a regular basis all the time and without knowing what a good debt is and a bad debt, we accumulate debt and the majority of the time it’s a bad debt. So we’re forever paying and working so hard in exchanging our precious time for money to pay off a bad debt where we need to realize what a good debt is and actually put our time and money into the good debt, so we can set ourselves up for better things opposed to paying off a credit card all the time and things like this, which is not going to get us anywhere and it just adds to stress, which is obviously no good for anyone.

Vanessa Warwick:

That’s bad for your health actually. But no, Paul, I was going to come to you on that point because understanding the difference between good debt bad debt is absolutely fundamental to building wealth because clearly, we want to invest in assets that are going to appreciate, that are going to serve us, not invest or spend money on a new car that’s going to drop 20% as you drive it out for the showroom.

Paul Mahoney:

Yeah, exactly. And look, I’m really glad that Michael’s used that terminology and we haven’t spoken about this before, but that’s the exact same terms that I use. Anybody that’s heard me talk about debt before will recognize that. Good debt and bad debt and getting rid of lifestyle debt being bad debt that hurts your finances and best utilizing good debt. A lot of people put those two things in the same category and they get very scared of debt altogether, but still have a massive mortgage on their home, still have the car loan and the credit cards and all that sort of stuff, or start paying down their investment debt rather than their personal debt.

Paul Mahoney:

So understanding these things and as you said before, Vanessa, a lot of this is just education and understanding the reasons and the logic as to why. But obviously, even if you don’t have that education, in a certain way, it is your responsibility to seek it out. And therefore, as we’re all talking about here, is best utilize what you’ve got. Better utilize your resources, make the right financial decisions to improve not just your lifestyle, but the comfort and safety of your family and everything else.

Vanessa Warwick:

Absolutely. I mean I think we all want to just reiterate that if you don’t have your health, then you don’t have wealth because if you don’t have your health, you’re not going to be able to do anything to create wealth. So health has to be an absolute number one priority for everybody I think and again, I think the whole COVID-19 recalibration of our lives has hopefully brought this into focus for the whole world. Some people have actually started going out exercising every day because they had that ability during lockdown. Many people will hopefully keep that up. Michael, as I’ve got older, one thing that I’ve come to realize is that I actually want to simplify my life. Would you say what’s happened to you has had that impact on you as well and has that given you peace of mind that your life is simpler, clearer, you can see what’s coming, you can plan for it as best as you can?

Michael Romeo:

Yeah, definitely. It makes you realize what noise there is around us and it just makes you focus on what’s really important. And it just has a massive effect on the perception and how we see things and for me, or for most people, it’s about we work hard for our money. So we trade our time to get a certain amount of money. So we work 38 hours a week, we’re going to earn X amount at the end of the week. If we want to earn more money, what do we have to do? We have to train more hours, more of our precious time to earn more money. So we’re always working for the money. But what I’ve come to realize and being able to do is actually flip it around the other way and start to get my money working better for me and my family.

Michael Romeo:

And my wife and I both have good jobs, but we never had a cashflow. The importance of our cash flow, we never understood that really. And once all this happened and obviously we refocused, we were able to change our attitude and our mindset. We actually are getting our money working better for us. So in the long run, it’s taken a lot of stress off us. It’s simplified things and it’s just really had a positive effect in such a bad time because it’s been a silver lining, I suppose, through the whole situation. And again, just by refocusing and changing our attitude and our perception towards our money and our life has really helped me stay focused and positive throughout the whole cancer journey.

Vanessa Warwick:

No, it’s very interesting because property is what we loosely call a passive income. There is actually quite a lot of work involved in being a landlord. But Michael was talking about essentially renting your life out to an employer. You can only work so many hours a day. So there’s a ceiling to how much you can actually… And clearly if you choose to work very, very long hours, that could impact on your health. But Paul, let me talk about property. I always say my properties are like the best employees you could ever have. They work rain or shine 24/7, 365. They’re generating cashflow if I’m on holiday, if I’m ill, that they’re there just solidly working away generating cashflow. And of course with property, we have the benefit of month-on-month cashflow from the rent, but also hopefully over a sustained time period we can enjoy capital growth as well. So that’s why it is such a good asset class to invest in as part of a diversified portfolio.

Paul Mahoney:

Yeah, I agree. And look, I think something that I’ve just taken from what Michael said there is both investments and health are a function of time.

Vanessa Warwick:

Yeah.

Paul Mahoney:

And sometimes if you work for 40… Well, you work for 40 years to contribute to your pension, then all of a sudden you have maybe just enough money to live comfortably. But you’re 60 or 70 years of age, that in my mind isn’t a good position to be in either. And I think what we’re talking about here is so far as building, whether it be property or otherwise, but talking about property, if we’re building a portfolio of properties, it potentially enables you to do that a lot quicker. And it seems that that’s something that Michael has realized probably slightly before this, but then much more after his situation came about, that that was a sensible thing to do whereas some people haven’t quite had that same kick in the bum, I suppose. But hopefully can realize that from other people’s experiences.

Vanessa Warwick:

Indeed. And Michael, I think it’s interesting to equate your book to property because property, you buy it once and then if you manage it correctly, it continues to generate passive income, net passive income month-on-month. With your book, you write it once, but you are going to generate royalties from your book sales. And of course, these are going to go towards supporting your family.

Michael Romeo:

Yeah, yeah. I’ve set up a trust fund for my daughter. And again, that was another reason which inspired me to put my story out there and I was quite , reserved person. I kept my personal life to myself. But in this situation, again, if the doctors were right in when I was to pass away, then this is something that can help my daughter and wife long after I’m gone. So yeah, that was a motivation as well behind the book. And again, it was just simply the amount of people that I spoke to had the same attitude as I did. It’s just I was quite shocked at the time as well. So again, what I was finding out when I looked more into my finances with the banks, I become angry at just how blindfolded I was in handing over my money to the bank each month and not questioning how much I was giving them, or if there was any other strategy to pay that off quicker and obviously benefit myself.

Michael Romeo:

And I spent 10 years over in London and my wife and I bought a property over there. And that was an investment property when we moved back home. But because we hadn’t implemented the right type of strategy after 12 months of being back in Australia, we had to sell the property because it wasn’t working for us how it should have been. So at the time, it was a lot of stress that we were under financially. And I feel that’s been a contributing factor or the cause of me developing the cancer because there’s been no other health reason why a person like me would come down with this type of cancer. So I feel that’s been a big factor in the diagnosis.

Vanessa Warwick:

Yeah. I agree with you. I think people really do underrate the damage that stress does to your body. Certainly in the last eight weeks, certainly here in the UK, landlords have experienced a lot of stress and I think it’s a really important message that you’re sending out that if you can create a financial future, actually that does relieve stress and if you can manage it effectively, that relieves stress and all of these things are so important for people to understand. And I really join Paul in saying that I think you’re so courageous and so brave and selfless in what you’re doing, Michael.

Vanessa Warwick:

I just think you’re an incredible human being and I just want to thank you for what you’ve done writing this book, because it will bring into sharp focus for other people that life does throw curve balls and that we are here on this planet for a finite period, and that we do have to take sustained action on an almost daily basis to make sure that we are protecting our family’s future and our finances. So I really just want to thank you so much for having the courage to write the book and to put yourself out there to talk about what is obviously an incredibly emotional issue for everybody.

Michael Romeo:

Thank you.

Vanessa Warwick:

Paul, is there anything you’d like to add? Any other things that we-

Paul Mahoney:

I think just add to that, obviously we encourage everyone to buy the book and-

Vanessa Warwick:

Definitely.

Paul Mahoney:

We’re talking about this in a brief summary of Michael’s situation. Obviously, the book will expand on that substantially. So if this does in any way have any relevance to you or hit home so far as how you might be able to improve your situation. One thing that Michael said that I’m sure will relate to a lot of people is being able to pay his mortgage off within three years after only starting this in the past year. Now most people, to pay off a mortgage in four years, that would seem unachievable. So if you want to learn more about that or just all the things we’ve been touching on, buy the book and learn more and then hopefully, you’ll be able to implement some of that for yourself and improve your own lifestyle and financial position.

Vanessa Warwick:

Yes, absolutely. And we will put the link to Michael’s book underneath this video and on this thread and I do urge you to go and buy it. And obviously by doing so, you’re improving your knowledge, but also you’re helping Michael’s financial future for his family as well. And I think that’s a lovely thing that everybody watching this interview can do. Michael, just as we come to the end now here, what would you say are the top three takeaways that you hope that people will take from your book, which is I’ll just remind everybody again is called Terminal Velocity?

Michael Romeo:

So number one is changing our attitude towards our health. As I mentioned before, that’s our most valuable asset. Without that, we have nothing. Prioritizing and understanding our wealth protection, i.e. our insurances and making sure that our most valuable asset is insured and insured properly because it’s a very muddy field, the insurance gain. So I come to find out that the hard way. So educating yourself on that and also just being aware and changing our attitude and perception towards our money, and understanding what the banking tools are available to us and the best way that we can implement those to benefit ourselves. And if we can do that and if people can change their mindset, then they will be able to change their life in a very positive way.

Michael Romeo:

And for me, if my book can help in any one of those areas in somebody’s life, for me, it makes it all worthwhile and they don’t necessarily have to pick up just for my financial strategy that we have implemented. If they can pick up something else out of the book, then again, for me that’s my vision for the book and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to what I’ve put down in the book there.

Vanessa Warwick:

Well, it’s a wonderful vision Michael. And again, I say to you thank you very much for writing the book, for having the courage to talk about such a difficult situation. I just want to commend you Michael, for what you’ve done and your attitude, not an ounce of self-pity. You’re just very calm, you seem very peaceful and your only objective is to help others. And I think that’s incredibly selfless of you and it’s extremely admirable. And I can only say that I’m full of admiration for you and I send you and your family really massive hugs and compassionate thoughts and lots of love and positive thoughts for the future that I hope you can continue to fight your battle against this cancer.

Michael Romeo:

Yeah. Thank you very much. It means a lot. And thank you very much for taking the time to have a chat with me today and obviously sharing the word and hopefully by doing this, you’re contributing to hopefully changing other people’s lives as well. So a big thank you to you too as well. So it’s really an honor to do it and to have the chat.

Paul Mahoney:

Yeah, thanks for taking out your valuable time. I think it’s been a very good talk and I do hope that people take something from it and buy the book and it helps to improve the situation which is obviously, as you say, the big part of why you wrote it. So we really do thank you for your time, which is obviously very valuable at the moment.

Vanessa Warwick:

Yeah. No, it’s been an absolute privilege and a pleasure to talk to you, Michael, and we send you lots of love. And the book is called Terminal Velocity. We will put a link to it underneath the video and Paul, I’m sure or I’m hoping that this video will spark some commentary, some discussion and that our respective communities will engage with it because it’s so important. And Michael has had to experience this health diagnosis to really wake up to the issues that we’ve talked about in today’s call. And we don’t want other people to find themselves in the same position, do we?

Paul Mahoney:

Yeah, exactly right. I think that’d be the best outcome of this is that it sparks some really positive conversation so far as how people can improve their situation and get out of a negative mindset so far as putting things off all the time, taking positive action as quickly as possible to best utilize what they’ve got.

Vanessa Warwick:

Absolutely. Well, thank you everybody for watching us on this Zoom call. We’re closing out now. Thank you very much to Michael over there in Brisbane. And thank you also to Paul Mahoney in London. Myself in Guildford. We do hope that you’ve found this call thought-provoking and that you will consider some of the issues raised in it. But for now, we’re all saying goodbye and join me in sending lots of love and positive vibes to Michael and his family. All the best Michael to you and we’re going to keep reminding people about your book and the important messages that you’ve shared in it.

Paul Mahoney:

Absolutely.

Michael Romeo:

Thank you very much. Have a good day.

Vanessa Warwick:

Thank you, bye. Bye.

 


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