Nancy Phillips


This is a guest post by Mai Lee, a real estate investor in Calgary, Alberta, Canada . We recently met when I was speaking at the Western REIN (Real Estate Investment Network) All Generations event in Edmonton, Canada. I immediately wanted to capture and share Mai’s enthusiasm for teaching her children financial life skills – including  the value of real estate investing! Mai’s twitter handle is @yyc4rent.

I hope you enjoy it.


What was the trigger that got you started teaching your children financial life skills?

As immigrants to Canada, my loving family had very little and taught me two lessons about money; one was purposeful, the other, more valuable, was unintended. Lesson #1: go to University, work/save, get a good job, work/save, buy a house, work/save and pay it off in 25 years. Lesson #2: my mom invested money into a university fund that matched her contributions and paid for my first year at university. This taught me that I can work hard physically for money, like my parents, but also, that I can make money work even harder for me.

How did you start and at what age?

Today, Gabriella is 9 and Atticus is 7. A year ago, an allowance through chore cards were given for helping around the house. The first goal was to fill the chart so that they could “cash out” their cards for money (the most popular choice) or choose to save it. Since they understood “work” involved an exchange of physical labour and time, the value of saving money and making it work for them through compound interest was taught:

Allowance Chore Cards                                                          Compound Interest Staircase

allowance_chart2.jpg compoud_interest_22.jpg


By not “cashing out” their cards, 1 compound interest card worth 25 cents was earned weekly. Next week, the 25 cents had been compounded to 50 cents, so long as the cards were not “cashed out.” I sped up the process to show how they made money without engaging in a physical task. Their compound interest is arranged in a staircase shape so each step is added weekly. I slowly phased out their “allowance” but still maintained the expectation to help out around the house.

What is working for you?

As a real estate investor, I am a proud a member of the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) and through REIN, attended Nancy Phillips’ Zela Wela Kids’ financial literacy event and was introduced to the GISS (give, invest, save, spend) method. Using the money the kids received for the Chinese New Year, I visited the bank for different coin and dollar combinations to help them divide up their money:

Gabriella’s GISS bank  – Give, Invest, Save, Spend


Forging ahead with the concept of teaching my kids to make money work hard for them, I had an idea to meaningfully teach real estate investing at their level. Using an old advent Kinder Egg Christmas calendar shaped as a house, the kids used the “I” part of GISS – invest – to buy their first rental property:

Atticus’ Investment House


Their GISS investment funds was their down payment to “purchase” their rental property. All 24 doors were labeled with “January Rent 2016”, “February Rent 2016”, etc. “Rent” is collected from “tenants” on the 1st of the month (I simply give the kids one loonie to tape inside the compartments):


Notice that the doors start off small but eventually get larger on the bottom and are purposely named to teach the concept that:

  • 24 doors = a 2-year mortgage term.
  • The rent collected by the tenant is used to pay down the mortgage.
  • As a mortgage pay down progresses to a bigger door, the kids will receive a tooney (then $3, etc.) as more principal vs. interest is paid down.
  • When the last door in December 2017 is reached, the tenants will have paid the mortgage. Now the house is owned free and clear. As a positive cash-flowing asset, all the initial down payment from GISS has been paid off, resulting in an infinite rate of return on their money.
  • As they get older, we can potentially discuss:
    • Growing the portfolio: refinancing the property to pull a 75% loan-to-value to purchase additional rental properties
    • Attracting Joint Venture partners -consider joint venturing with mommy or daddy for a 50% capital buy out and use the funds as seed capital to purchase additional house(s)
    • Simply let the house continue to earn money to fund their purchases, such as toy stuffies and Pokemon cards.
  • Future points is budgeting for items such as vacancies, repairs for costly items such as a roof replacement, getting the kids to help write the rental ads, discuss how a property appreciates in value, consider different asset classes such as multifamily, and so on.

I feel it has been very successful so far because it is a tangible and age-appropriate way to teach my kids about real estate investing.

What do you hope to achieve? Goals for important life lessons?

I hope to teach my children to value real estate investing because I know it will create a future in which they will be comfortable, have everything they need and be confident that their real estate investments will fund a life that they can architect on their own terms.

What are some of the most inspiring and rewarding things you seen your children do or say? What is it you want to share with other parents?

When visiting their aunt who recently purchased a house, my 7 year-old son asked, “Auntie Anra, how much are your property taxes?” To which she replied, “That is a very good question, Atticus. I don’t think I even know!” Overall, what surprises me most is my children understand that they can grow their money with real estate and have internalized that they can work for money, but it is much more fun to make it work for them!


Wow, what an incredible lesson from Mai on her use of the GISS method with Atticus and Gabriella – as well as an intro course on the value of mortgage paydown in real estate investing! Thank you for all your work putting this blog post together Mai.

The key takeaway here is the importance for kids and teens to learn that money is used for more than just spending. The GISS method teaches the concept of dividing income into different categories: giving, investing saving and spending  – and the value of each in the long-term. It will significantly impact your child’s financial well-being and overall happiness as adults if they learn to manage their money effectively.

Are you using the GISS method or something similar? Please feel free to post your comments or share your stories.

For more information on resources which teach the GISS method for kids and teens, click here. The Zela Wela Kids Build a Bank sstorybook and The Teen Steps to Success activity guide both highlight the GISS methods and provide information to teach your kids and teens during everyday life.




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