Personal Finance > Real People
Real People:
Laughing all the way to the bank
Comedian Alan Corey didn't think being broke was funny. So he started buying real estate.
April 3, 2003: 5:35 PM EST
By Leslie Haggin Geary, Staff Writer, CNN/Money

New York (CNN/Money) - A young comedian moves to New York City with big dreams of becoming a star, and within a few years, he's rolling in cash.

Some kind of joke, right? Not if you're Alan Corey.

No, the 25-year-old still hasn't hit the big time in terms of show biz, though he is building a steady fan following. Rather, he decided that scraping by financially is no laughing matter. So when he left Atlanta to move to the bright lights of New York two years ago, he was sure to prepare for rough times ahead.

"I came with motivation and desire and a dream to make it," he said. "But I also came with a computer degree in my back pocket in case something didn't work out."

That degree enabled Corey to land a job as a technical consultant at Red Dot Solutions, a web content management provider, where he still works. The steady income from that gig enables him to fund phase two of his get-rich plan: namely, to have enough income from real estate investments so that he won't have to work, and can devote his time to comedy. Ideally, he'll have $1 million in real estate equity by the time he's 30.

So far, so good

So far, Corey's done pretty well for himself. He owns a one-bedroom condominium in Brooklyn that he rents out. Located in the newly trendy Fort Greene neighborhood, the apartment is worth about $200,000 -- far more than the $99,000 he paid for it in January 2002 with a $10,000 down payment.

He also bought a seven-bedroom house in Brooklyn this January, where he lives and rents the other six rooms to comedians he's befriended after two years on the New York comedy circuit. This rental income enables him to pay his mortgages and save for his next real estate deal.

All told, Corey makes about $65,000 a year, between his rental income, the paycheck from Red Dot and any money he earns as a comedian. (He's a member of the Dark Champions improvisational comedy troupe, and also does solo gigs.) To date, his savings, retirement funds and equity in the two properties are worth $178,812.

Of course, Corey's been helped by a robust real estate market; he can't count on the kind of appreciation that has sent housing prices soaring in the past few years. He's invested a little in the stock market. His Roth IRA, for example, is held in the Vanguard 500 Index fund. And he's got various funds in his 401(k) account, including Federated GNMA Fund and Federated Bond Fund, which have done well for him in recent years.

Still, he's not sure about plowing a lot more into the market, and admits he was burned back when he went to college. At the time his parents offered him $10,000 if he attended the University of Georgia, where he had earned a full scholarship to study computer science.

He took the cash, plowed the money into Wall Street -- and lost it all. The experience, he said, "reaffirmed my love for real estate. I can use my own sweat equity and make the value go up. But I can't go to a CEO of company and show him how to cut expenses."

Cutting costs is something Corey's good at. He reads books on personal finance by best selling authors like Suze Orman, Russ Whitney and Robert Kiyosaki of the Rich Dad, Poor Dad series. And he puts what he reads into practice by saving half of his income for the next real estate deal.

That leaves a modest amount for expenses and fun. Living modestly isn't difficult, he says, because his housemates and friends are comedians who need to watch their dollars, too. Most evenings, he and his pals hang out in the giant living room, talking about comedy, helping each other with their acts, playing cards or just hanging out.

"We make our own food instead of going out. We take subways everywhere," adds Corey who's even gone so far as to start a "Bargain of the Day" web page for comedians who want to live on something like 99 cents a day in New York.

The postings from various cash-conscious comedians include many sightings of Top Ramen noodle soup sales (Best price spotted: 10 cents a cup), listings of bars that serve free dinner, bakeries that unload food at half price, recipes for "Alan's Stick-to-the-ribs cereal" that's cheaper than Pop Tarts, tips on budgeting, and how to find free Internet service.

So, do Corey's fellow comedians -- who seem to subsist on Ramen noodles, pizza slices and hot dogs -- resent that he's a property owner?

Not at all. "I don't want to make others feel inferior by any means. But my friends know this is something I take seriously," he says. "I'm Alan, who's the cheapskate."

As for the future? A few months ago, Corey met his neighbor, an interior designer who shares his passion for real estate. The two have teamed up and are negotiating their first joint purchase: an abandoned four-story building they want to transform into apartments.

"Finally," says Corey happily, "I have someone to talk real estate with!"  Top of page

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