TGCI 118: From Thai refugee camps to Apple Engineer to Financial Freedom

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Episode 118: Thoughts and feelings. How feelings are signal to the life YOU want?

Copy of EP #18 - 2 Guests (1)


In today’s show, Pancham interviews Eng Taing – CEO and Founder of Touzi Capital.

Born in a refugee camp in Thailand, escaping the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and working with a high salary, and finally finding financial success in Los Angeles, Eng will look back on his eventful adventures and how it helped him to be a real estate investor that has $100m assets under management!

In this episode, he’ll share how his background developed his sense of being thrifty. You’ll also learn how to break out of your golden handcuffs as he shares his story of leaving his high-paying job at Apple and building Touzi Capital to where it is today!


Listen and enjoy the show!

Pancham Gupta
Screen Shot 2021-04-14 at 9.34.18 AM
Eng Taing

Tune in to this show and enjoy!

Copy of Quote #00 - 1 Guest

Timestamped Shownotes:

  • 1:00 – Pancham introduces Eng to the show
  • 2:21 – How he found financial freedom in investing
  • 6:06 – His family background and how it helped with his mindset as an investor
  • 9:09 – Why investing out of state is not an hindrance to success
  • 11:41 – Overview of the BRRRR Strategy
  • 12:50 – How he knew the right moment to quit his job (and why it’s his best decision yet!)
  • 19:41 – How cold showers and coffee helped him start his day
  • 21:30 – Taking the Leap Round
  • 21:30 – His first investment outside of Wall Street (at the age of 12!)
  • 22:09 – Overcoming his fear of managing his properties
  • 23:21 – Why his multifamily deal didn’t go as expected
  • 24:51 – Why rookie investors should start get into investing
  • 26:56 – Eng’s contact information

3 Key Points:

  1. Real estate is a good investment and it can also be seen as a financial security blanket that they didn’t have before.
  2. Having investments in a different state may be an obstacle to overcome but it is not a hindrance to achieve success.
  3. No matter the amount of effort you’ll be putting in your work, you would still earn the same amount of income.

Get in Touch:


Read Full Transcript

Welcome to The Gold Collar Investor podcast with your host Pancham Gupta. This podcast is dedicated to helping the high-paid professionals to break out of the Wall Street investments and create multiple income streams. Here’s your host, Pancham Gupta.

Hi there, I’m Robert Helms host of The Real Estate Guys radio program and if you want to have better results in your life you gotta put better ideas in your mind. You’re in the right place. You’re at The Gold Collar Investor podcast.

Pancham Gupta: Welcome to The Gold Collar Investor Podcast. This is your host, Pancham. Really appreciate you for tuning in today. Today, we have a fellow engineer in the house, Eng’s story is something that many immigrants can relate to. He was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, and then found success and financial freedom here in the United States. He talks about his mindset on how he broke away from Apple’s salary and the Golden Handcuffs.  A bit about Eng before we get into today’s show.  Eng is the CEO and Founder of Touzi Capital and is an experienced real estate investor with $100 million of assets under management. Eng is an economist by training from Wharton School of Business. He has also a lot of experience in data science and analytics at Apple Capital One and AT&T. He has the classic immigrant story, born in the refugee camp in Thailand, escaping the Khmer Rouge and finding success in data and math in America.  Eng focuses on high cash flow investments and providing passive income opportunity to investors by acquiring and optimizing multifamily, senior assisted living facilities, and Bitcoin mining operations. Hi, Eng. Welcome to the show.


Eng: Hi, Pancham.  Great to be here. Thanks for having me.


Pancham Gupta: Oh, thank you for your time here. So, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show today. I’ve been looking forward for this show for quite some time, being a fellow engineer who left Apple, you know, I’m really looking forward to connecting and find out, you know what you’re up to these days. And so, before we get started, are you ready to fire up my listener break out of Wall Street investments?


Eng: Yes. Let’s do it. 


Pancham Gupta: Great. So cool. So Eng tell our listeners about your background, and more importantly, the person behind that background.


Eng: Let’s go all the way back. Yeah, I grew up in LA, but I was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. My parents are Cambodian-Chinese and that was the ethnic group that was highly persecuted. And the Khmer Rouge, I have lots of stories, a lot of them are my parents’ stories of struggle. But I shared in that struggle growing up in LA, growing welfare, had the good fortune to be very good at math, how to get a fresh – inaudible-, I’ve been very good at analyzing data patterns and day trading when I was 16. And getting into Wharton and study economics and finance and get into rostering myself. But I also had the good fortune of seeing my parents’ house Oh and start to invest in real estate. And when I had the first opportunity to have my own capital enough to buy my own first property, I did so at the age of 23. And was hooked ever since. And I’ve been doing it every year or every other year whenever I could have half capital or If I could afford. So, it’s been a very slow but compounding impact, and snow-inaudible- to where I am today.  Just turned 36 finding financial freedom and something that I always wanted but realizing that a financial freedom from a company like apple, which is where my last full time corporate position was meant working much harder than I’ve ever worked in my life. Because it’s such a fascinating turn of events where I love what I do now. And I don’t have to have all the daily stand ups that you know you’re familiar with. All the other reports. Just scrums. Yeah, yeah, he’s a responsible party. Yeah, lots of those stuff. I try to incorporate some of that because I do think there’s some value in some of that process in that world, with the technology and when not into this world, which is not it’s, you know, integrated with all the new technology and project management tools. But it’s been a very interesting journey.


Pancham Gupta: Yeah, no, absolutely. So, you know, I’m actually quite fascinated with your, you said you were born in Thailand in the refugee camp, right? Yeah. At what age you actually came to U.S? 


Eng: Came around three years old. 


Pancham Gupta: So, you were three years old. Okay. Got it. Got it. And this is at the time of Vietnam War. No, 


Eng: Yeah. So, during the Vietnam War, Americans carpet bomb Cambodia and Vietnam and one of the consequences was a lot of upheaval in Cambodia where a fascist, communist dictator started to purge all the intellectuals and the business owners and the teachers. Around half of the Chinese-Cambodian population, which includes my parents, now, half of them were eliminated. And so, I have heard stories of from my parents, where they would have these watch out and where soldiers would come in, knock on doors and distract people in the middle of night, and my dad was always like running from building to building, and then sending for hiking through the jungles with my older brother, who was born two years earlier. And then he started how he was drugged during the jungle march to Thailand, so that he wouldn’t make me any noise, very fascinating story, something that we did some time.


Pancham Gupta: So somehow, your parents managed to get away from all of that., come here, and you are where you are today. So let me ask you this question from that kind of background that your parents went through their mindset, obviously, you went through much, much harder, or your parents went to much, much harder times. They’re, you know, I’m being an immigrant myself. So, I know, the mindset that my parents had, you know, what I had, I was kind of a saver, and, you know, just different kind of mindset, which you see here, generally speaking. So, you know, growing in a family like that, like, how did you get into, like, what was the mindset you had, when you bought your first property? Let’s say,


Eng: I think the mindset was, I wanted to make money. I think that was sort of how we serve is always moved forward because we have so little, we wanted to have that security. And, you know, seeing that apartment buildings or, you know, real estate could have rent or income, and we could manage them like a business, but they were pretty passive once you set it up, right? I thought of it mostly as this is pretty safe. This is like getting cash flow. This is getting a security layer that we didn’t have. And I liked what you said about the saver mentality, because I think a lot of immigrants, -inaudible- included, are very much about saving, and really good at saving very prodigious savers. I literally went to Peace Corps when I was making $200 a month. And using $100 of that to pay for housing and exiting the Peace Corps was $700 of savings. That’s sales highlights, you know, fruit growing, economic -inaudible- just continues to, you know, high acquired properties, properties now 10s of millions of properties. But that same mindset also can be a little bit of disadvantage when you are thinking like an investor. And when you think like an investor, you always think every dollar you borrow makes you money. If you’re doing it right, obviously, with some leverage safety point. But it makes you know; I remember my parents always wanting to just pay down the mortgage and not borrow as much on an LTV and have low payments. Now I’ve finally got through them, they’ve and talked about how it’s thought of us as portfolio level, if you can put down 20% down versus 40% down that house take that 20% that you would have that you’re buying, it’s actually a 3% invest in something that gives you 10 or 12%, then your payments go down dramatically lower. But I think most people, my parents, including savers, think of it as sort of, they just want to not owe anything I don’t want to have any debt. But they’re oftentimes raised to think that debt is good debt. 


Pancham Gupta: Exactly. No, my mindset changed quite a bit after reading that, you know, Robert Kiyosaki his books, I’m sure you know, Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and he talks about good debt, bad debt quite a bit. And yeah, if you look at that today, it’s just, it just totally changes your mind. So that’s great. You know, you save your whatever you were making, you were frugal in your in your expenses, and you save money, and you buy your first property at the age of 23. Then what happens? 


Eng: Then I do it again and again. And the first one, I actually had the fortune of buying a very low in the market. So obviously 2009 was a really good time to buy, which I bought. I just had more capital by then. 


Pancham Gupta: Where was it, the first one?


Eng: It was in Southern California. 


Pancham Gupta: Okay. 


Eng: And actually, I was living in DC at the time that I bought my first property out of state. I like to think that I don’t think you need to be local to where you buy to invest. In fact, that can be a hindrance, if you’re always thinking locally, especially if you live in nice areas. My fear is not producing that much yield or cash flow. And that’s always been my path investing, I invest for cash flow. I love the predictability of things. I love the fact that this property pays for itself, that it generates cash and cash returns and that I can use depreciation to offset that cash.


Pancham Gupta: Got it? Got it. Good. Thanks for that. So, you bought your first property and then the second one, then the third one. So, on the very first one, did you ever actually live in that one? Or you just bought it for investment property? Like you were in DC, right? Yeah,


Eng: I never lived in any of my investment properties. I know that it’s very common. And I was considering doing that when I was first buying my first property, I first bought my first property to live in my first house to live in on my fifth property. So, I didn’t even think about buying a house personally, even though I had the means to do so earlier, until later because I, I always was lived in expensive areas into Brent made more sense in the purchase price. But in the first property and the second and third and fourth, I always tried to improve it in some fashion. Yeah. What’s now BRR method, I don’t even know what that meant. And I haven’t read bigger pockets, I just did that a I would paint the, repaint the interior exterior and redo the cabinet finishes and the flooring a little bit, and then increase the value of the property name quickly refinance. And that’s how I was able to then snowball on to the next one. Next one wasn’t necessarily a lot of money from my income at the time, I went to finance, not tech, which I should have done, but everyone in the mid 2000s went into finance until the financial crisis happened.


Pancham Gupta: Right, right, right. So, for people who don’t know, a listener who is listening, he talked about BRR which is B R R. Can you explain what that is?


Eng: Yeah, so it’s really the concept of creating value buying rehabbing refinancing, and you’re buying most investments, the money’s made at the acquisition. But if you acquire a value-add property, meaning that if you there are comparable rental units that you’re that were given a little bit of improvement, that it could increase the rents, and the rents dictate for commercial properties. They take the value of the property, now you’ve increased your equity. So, for the first one, I’ll give you some hard numbers. $126,000 was a purchase price, I put around $40,000, I put it another $10,000 of beef rehab, I got new tenants in.  A year later, I refinance out around $50,000 of equity, my second one, and did that again and again and again.


Pancham Gupta: And now you’re doing millions of dollars’ worth of deals, right? So, talk about that. Now, let’s move on. So, you did bunch of these deals, you were working at different companies, then you move to Apple at some point, right? So, by the time you left Apple, how many deals did you have? Or units did you have under your bed?


Eng: By the time I left Apple, I’ve had around 15 deals, most of them personal deals. I’ve started Touzi Capital, a company I have now been in the last year of Apple. So that was I was doing both at the same time.


Pancham Gupta: Let’s talk about that before quitting, what was going through your head? Were you at a point where your expenses were completely met by your passive income? Or were you at not at that point, like what was then, like the situation.


Eng: I was a very highly paid Apple employee, I was, served as senior manager and became a move into Siri. And that was one of my favorite moves because it allowed me to take a step back and really focus on my work was a lot of coding and a lot of engineering. And I purposely built that, that journey for my work because previously, I worked on it as function as American functions and led teams and took a lot of my time and effort and energy and thought, because I was very passionate about those things. Realizing quickly that I’m putting in a lot of effort, a little effort, the bandwidth, the spread of how much I would get back with doesn’t change that much. It really all that matters is how much iPhones we sell. I don’t know how impactful I am personally impacting that. So, I purposely built my career to then kickstart my, my current career now which is to be able to take a role that I could be an individual contributor on and still deliver but do it in a way that can take as much of time other day and really built my company in the last year of Apple. Got it. So, are you saying that you were, you became individual contributor within Apple, so you were actually coding in your last year when you left? Yeah, I was coding.  I was coding late at night; I was taking broker calls during the day. I was having investor calls during the day. 


Pancham Gupta: Nice. 


Eng: And yes, to reanswer your question, I started to achieve more passive income than my active income in the last year of Apple, so that also gave me a lot of confidence to say that this is good. I can leave. It’s very hard to leave, especially during the middle of a pandemic. And obviously with what stocks been doing. It’s like, sometimes he’s like, didn’t I make the right decision?


Pancham Gupta: But was going to ask you that, given what you’ve seen, what happens? When did you quit actually, like what was the month?


Eng: Mid 2020? so June, July, June,


Pancham Gupta: Just before the rockets when you know the stock market went on rocket to the moon?


Eng: Exactly. Yeah. Luckily, I still had lot of Apple stock that has vested but could have had more. But you know, the saying is, yeah, almost always can leave more money in table later on.  This tiny gun handcuffs that becomes bigger and bigger over time. And for me, who have always gravitated towards entrepreneurship, and I think we’ll see it’s very much very, much an entrepreneur activity. That’s security that I’ve been chasing initially, because I was, I grew up where I grew up, was sort of anchoring made from taking bigger risks. And then the conversation made it harder and harder, and you know, or grants or sock grants, you know, achieving and then became like, should I just be an investor? Today, I started to invest more myself. But realizing that I really loved that angle of things. And the fact that all my passive income is also tax free. It’s amazing. It helps a lot.


Pancham Gupta: Absolutely. No, I think I resonate quite a bit with you. The only difference like so I was, I loved coding. And when I left, same thing, exact same thing that, you know, I was thinking, am I making the right decision or not? And all that stuff, all those things go through your head? Right. So that’s great, man. Now, now that you’re out, and it’s been a year, and you have $100 million worth of assets under management like, would you say that was the best decision? right decision? What are your thoughts there?


Eng: I think it’s the best decision, and the right decision. And it’s an interesting decision, because I unlock so much potential and myself.  I didn’t know I could strike up a conversation with people in this industry, or people like you and learn something every time. When you’re not going to meeting to just deliver on project or designing something, you just are curious. And I do that that natural curiosity came out of me and really allowed me to flourish and partner with all these amazing people in real estate and outside real estate, and finding you know a community of people who are very interested in finding financial freedom and investing in real estate, paying as little tax as possible through the whole process. And, you know, learning all kinds of interesting ways to do that, that as a W2, maybe the sexiest thing you’ve done is a backdoor Roth IRA. And you might now be thinking, what the heck is that? Should I be doing that? Yeah, you should. Now, you know, as a real estate investor in talking to other real estate investors who’ve been doing this much longer, and have much more wealth and income, whatnot, they don’t even think about that stuff. They like what taxes, they have so many ways to defer and eliminate and reduce that. It’s like, you’re always thinking like I was making so much money before and now think, was I really make that much money.


Pancham Gupta: That’s great. You don’t miss coding anymore.


Eng: I do some coding now because I love creating some, I create some Python scripts to scrape publicly available data, to identify markets and then to also scrape OEMs from broker sites. Hopefully they did on password protected sites, but it helps me so


Pancham Gupta: What were you coding then when you were at Apple, the language?


Eng: I was, I was coding in PI Spark. So, we were doing Pi Spark and Scala at and Python and at Siri.


Pancham Gupta: Oh, nice. Nice. Nice. That’s great. Cool. So, you know, I want to move to the next section of the show. Before I do that, I actually want to ask you one question which I have been asking pretty much everyone lately is that do you have a morning routine that you follow? If so, what is it and do you think that attributes to your success?


Eng: I have.  I have always thought about creating morning routine. I don’t have one. I take a cold shower in the morning, and then I go shower coffee and get right into the I actually think the first hour is my least productive, like the recap, but I like to co shower in the morning, it refreshes me, I try to do live light exercise, and need to be more purpose driven going forward on really making time for reflecting on things. I’m a night owl. So, if you ask me my night routine that’s more robust. And but yeah, that’s, that’s fine. 


Pancham Gupta: Got it. Cool. So, we’ll be back after this message… Have you ever wondered why the rich keep getting richer? What is the secret that they know, but you do not? What if I told you that wealthy people make their money work for them in two different places? Yes, the same dollars invested in two different places and working hard for them while they sleep. They utilize these special accounts that have been in existence for more than 100 years. Do you want to learn more about these accounts? Then you are in the right place? Listen to the episode number five by going to  I repeat, or visit thegoldcollarinvestor… We are going to the second section of the show which I call taking the leap round. These are the four questions I ask every guest on my show. My first question for you is when was the first time you invested outside of Wall Street? Was that the deal that you bought in Southern California at the age of 23?


Eng: Yeah. That was the first time I bought myself outside of Wall Street. I really think that I’ve always been investing outside wall street by buying things and retailing things. You probably have heard of folks who go to garage sales and buy it and sell it. I’ve been doing that since I was 12. So, there was always like buying inventory of things I thought my fellow students at 12 or 13 were buying and selling it to pay for lunch and skirts, -inaudible-.


Pancham Gupta: That’s great. Cool. So, my second question for you is what fears did you have to overcome when you first invested outside of Wall Street, and that is that you bought that first property?


Eng: I think the biggest fear I have overcome was not knowing how to do, how to manage things from afar. And that’s one of the biggest lessons and learning that I’ve, I think has really facilitated my growth. Because if I was always dependent on proximity, and my own efforts and my own physical proximity, I think that could be very limiting thing. So being able to invest in the first time, actually out of state, even though eventually I moved back to LA and was close to this place. I bought stuff in LA since then, where I finally seen it twice a year. And that’s okay. But I mean, I suppose a lot of times I buy stuff, without even seeing things and not buy stuff, but make of some things without seeing it. I love to have the math tell me what the story is before I can touch and smell and feel it and make those perceptions influence me.


Pancham Gupta: Got it. Cool. My third question for you is can you share with us one investment that did not go as expected? 


Eng: I think the biggest, so I’ve been investing in real estate and a lot of the risks I’ve invested in has been on a upcycle. So, I like to not really take credit for I’m a swing market. But the biggest investment that did not go as expected was really this investment I did four years ago. And it was multifamily deal investment. And the challenge here was I was trying to everything myself. Ultimately, because I bought it about four years ago, I sold it recently for very tidy profit and made a great return. I just tried to do everything myself and realizing that I should partner and outsource and delegate and bring in people who can help or just have a network of people. So that’s what I’ve been doing since and have been able to scale. But yeah, I mean you’ve tried to do everything yourself trying to seem that you know everything that’s definitely can put a lot of time drain on you. I think I made money there. But I think I lost a lot of time. It’s my time. 


Pancham Gupta: Time is money. Yeah, exactly.  So how many units was that deal? The one that you were managing yourself?


Eng: Oh, that was a 42 unit. Yeah. 


Pancham Gupta: Wow. Okay


Eng: That’s pretty small when it’s relative to where I have now or ever on 1000 units.


Pancham Gupta: Got it. Where was that deal? The 42-unit deal.


Eng: That was in SoCal as well. 


Pancham Gupta: Okay, got it, got it. Cool. So, my last question for you is what is one piece of advice would you give to people who are thinking of investing in main street that is outside of Wall Street and for you actually, I would modify this question a little bit more. And I would ask that, you know, since you’re in tech, and I have a lot of friends in tech, and they, you know, the mindset of people and given the stock market has been going up and up and up, and there’s only one way which is up. So, you know, a lot of times they have their net worth, and also their income, both tied to the stock of one company at a very high, you know, percentage. So, what advice would you give to those people?


Eng: I think, as an investor or employee, you should really spend a fair amount of time on the biggest expense of your life, which is taxes. And then if you connected dots, you realize that real estate is such a tax efficient way to earn. And think about all the amazing growth that you’ve had in the last six months of Tesla stock, in Apple stock, because it can cloud view for what you might want to do in future. I think real estate is the ultimate diversification tool.  I would highly recommend pretty much to just start. Start investing, harbor that looks where you’re actively buying yourself or investing in a company like mines or -inaudible-. It’s really about getting into space and getting familiar with the fact that you can get a K1 or -inaudible – and get lots of decreases and losses and lots of cash flow that you can you know, three magic parts of real estate, which is compound, interest and tax advantage and leverage. I mean, you can’t get that anywhere else. I think it’s such a predictable thing when you do it the first time and you have success, and then do the second time and realize this is easy. And it gets easier. So, I highly recommend people just start


Pancham Gupta: Cool. That’s a great advice for sure. Not get bogged down by the analysis paralysis that we endure in engineers sometimes.


Eng: Yes. And I’ve been faced with that. 


Pancham Gupta: I’m sure. Thank you for your time here, Eng. And how can people connect with you if they want to, you know, find out more about you and your company?


Eng: Yeah, please reach out to me at, happy to talk to anybody. And if you are interested in investing, you know, we have a lot of opportunities though investments for those tax capital gains. Feel free to sign up for our site. Happy to talk to you, guys.


Pancham Gupta: Great. Thank you for your time here today, Eng.


Eng: Thanks for having me.

Pancham Gupta: I hope you learn something from Eng’s inspirational story. Thanks for listening. I really appreciate you. If you have questions, email me at that’s p as in Paul  This is Pancham signing off. Until next time, take care.

Thank you for listening to The Gold Collar Investor Podcast. If you love what you’ve heard and you want more of Pancham Gupta, visit us at www.thegoldcollar and follow us on Facebook@thegoldcollarinvestor. The information on this podcast are opinions as always, please consult your own financial team before investing.


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