Meet the 29-year-old YouTuber who rakes in $1 million a year from his channel and has done $125 million in property deals. He explains why he saves 'like 99%' of his income to invest in real estate.
Graham Stephan, YouTube sensation and real-estate investor, leverages a frugal and long-term mindset in order to save 99% of his income. Once he finds a good deal, he pumps those savings into real-estate investments. Stephan didn't go to college and had terrible grades in school. But he made $221,300 in a single month in 2019, and makes over $1 million per year from his YouTube channel. Click here for more BI Prime stories.
Graham Stephan, YouTube sensation and real-estate investor, makes more in a month than most people earn in a year. As recently as 2019, the 29-year-old reportedly earned as much as $221,300 in a single month. "I had terrible grades; I didn't go to college," he said during an interview on "The Financial Confessions" podcast. "Statistically I should not have been successful whatsoever, but I had an interest in working hard, and making money, and saving as much as I can, and really taking an interest to investing." Stephan says his journey to wealth began in 2008, when he obtained his real-estate license and started working as an agent. "The commissions that I was earning were so sporadic, I didn't know when the next deal was coming, so I just saved everything," he said. "Saved up enough money in 2011 where it made sense to start buying real estate, so I started investing in real estate." He'd buy cheap foreclosures, fix them up, and rent them out for income. Stephan scored his first property for $59,500, and spent $12,000 on renovations. That same house is worth anywhere between $250,000 to $300,000 today — and it's been absorbing $1,200 in monthly rent payments for the past 7 years. As the real-estate market improved, so did Stephan's commission checks. He'd reinvest his commissions with the income he was earning from his rentals to form a virtuous cycle. In total, he's sold over $125 million worth of real estate. Then came YouTube. "I've always wanted to make Youtube videos, so that was always a dream of mine," he said. "I could make YouTube videos and talk about credit cards, and personal finance, and investing, and saving money. Basically all the things that my friends weren't interested in — and I could talk to a camera and then have internet friends that would like to listen to me." He continued: "That alone earns over a million dollars a year, from just the YouTube channel." It's a figure that was reconciled by CNBC's "Millennial Money" series from late 2019, which featured Stephan as one of its success stories. CNBC found that Stephan earns an average of $90,684 a month through YouTube, setting him on a pace of $1.09 million annually. Today, Stephan's YouTube channel has over 1.5 million subscribers. Personal finance principals But just because Stephan is raking in exorbitant amounts of cash doesn't mean he's a big spender. "I'll save all of my money, as much as I can, like 99%," he said. "And then when I get that 99%, I'll save it up and try to buy another property with it. So I wait for a good deal to come up that makes sense to buy, and then I'll spend it all on a property." "It's almost like a challenge to save money," he said. "I get so much enjoyment over just not spending it. I don't know why, it's like my brain is wired kinda weird." Stephan provided an example from earlier that morning. Instead of buying "designer coffee" at a cafe, he made it himself. "I revel in the fact that if I can save $3 on that, and invest it over the next 50 years at a 7% return, it's going to be worth like $200," he said. "That's just fun for me." Although that coffee may seem like a trivial purchase given his 7-figure income, Stephan said that his whole philosophy really comes down to optionality. "To me, the more money I save, the more options it gives me — and if I can cut back on the things that don't matter — like coffee — and spend it more on the things that do, I just get enjoyment from that," he said. He suggests trying to cut on down on impulse purchases, "or things that really don't make that big of a difference" — and recommends sleeping on potential purchases before pulling the trigger. He says that chances are you'll change your mind. In addition, Stephan wants you to think about what your purchase today will cost you in the long term. He provided an example involving the purchase of a pair of shoes. If the shoes cost $100, Stephan will think about what that same $100 could grow to had he invested it for 20 years with a market return of 8%. "Would I rather have 'X' amount of money in 20 years than the shoes right now?" he asked. "And sometimes every now and then, I'd rather have the shoes. But a lot of times, I'd rather have the potential money you have in the future. That would, again, give you more options." It's that long-term mindset that keeps Stephan socking away swaths of cash to pump into the real estate market. He's fully aware of power of compounding. "Not a lot has changed," he concluded. "For me, I've really just been doing the same thing repeatedly."SEE ALSO: A self-taught hedge-fund manager who's returned 16%-plus annually to investors since 2012 shares his 'special-situation' strategy — and a stock that makes up 39% of his holdings Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the '3rd wave' firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption
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$141,000 from YouTube in February alone: A real-estate and finance creator explains how he took his channel from a side gig to 1.6 million subscribers
Graham Stephan is a YouTube creator with 1.6 million subscribers known for sharing personal-finance, investing, and...Graham Stephan is a YouTube creator with 1.6 million subscribers known for sharing personal-finance, investing, and real-estate tips with his followers. Stephan launched his YouTube channel in 2016, filming a video on his journey as a real-estate agent. Last year, he switched to focus on his YouTube business full time. Since then, Stephan has turned his YouTube channel into a lucrative career, with his channel making $141,000 in February alone, according his YouTube dashboard, which was viewed by Business Insider. Click here for more BI Prime stories. In April 2017, one of Graham Stephan's YouTube videos took off. He was elated. He made $181 that day, which at the time was a lot of money for him to be making just on the side. "I was so excited, thinking if I made $2 a day just from YouTube, that pays for my phone bill, so when I had that one day of $181, I was like wow, there is really a lot of potential in this," he told Business Insider. At the time, Stephan was working full time as a real-estate agent, and when he got home, he would work on YouTube from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., he said. His YouTube channel quickly became a great source of side income, and by the end if 2018, he had earned over $250,000 in total from his YouTube business, he said. That's when he went all in. "It was in December of 2018 that I really felt like I had a small chance with this, and thought, there's a lot of potential in this, I need to give this its full attention," he said. Stephan now focuses on his YouTube channel full time. He has 1.6 million people subscribed to his YouTube channel and earns money through the ads that play in his videos, by selling a course on how to grow your YouTube channel, sponsorships, and through Amazon's affiliate program. Creators like Stephan — who is known for sharing personal-finance, investing, and real-estate tips with his followers — often earn more money on their YouTube videos per view than others because the finance-focused audiences they attract are more valuable to advertisers. In February, he earned a total $141,356 in AdSense revenue alone, on 8.9 million views in 29 days, according to his YouTube dashboard, which was viewed by Business Insider. His video, "How I Bought A Tesla for $78 per month," with 6.3 million views, made $56,329 so far to date in under a year, he said. Was sorting through my mom’s old pictures and came across this 😂 A post shared by Graham Stephan (@gpstephan) on Jan 22, 2020 at 6:08pm PST on Jan 22, 2020 at 6:08pm PST How Stephan got his start on YouTube In 2010, Stephan started watching YouTube and felt it was the future of TV. And after four years of watching, he decided he wanted to get involved somehow, but thought he wouldn't be a compelling enough star. "I didn't think anyone would want to watch me, so I remember thinking maybe I could invest in a YouTube channel," he said. "I wanted to be a silent investor because I knew at the time these people weren't making much money and weren't doing it full time." Stephan said almost every channel he reached out to turned him down, and in December 2016, he finally filmed a video of his own and uploaded it to YouTube. "I held up the selfie side of my phone and just recorded for 25 mins straight were I talked about my journey getting into real estate and just some of the things I learned along the way, and that was it," he said. He created his YouTube channel that night and began posting videos once a week. At the time, he would leave a comment on any of the other videos he would watch, or any relevant channels like business or real estate, which he said helped him initially grow his audience. Stephan said he has always been passionate about money. Now, he shares his personal experiences with saving money and investing with his audience. He told CNBC in November that he saves roughly 99% of his income, estimating that 85% of his total yearly earnings come from YouTube. How he grew his YouTube channel, and his advice "Once I started posting three times a week, the whole thing took off," he said about his YouTube channel. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 3:30 p.m. PST, Stephan will have a new video up on his channel. "I responded to 95% to 98% of all my comments until I hit one million subscribers," he said. "I couldn't get out of bed in the morning until I answered all of the comments that came while I was sleeping. I'd spend 30 mins to an hour in the morning responding to comments, like 'thanks for watching' and 'really appreciate it.'" At the start, he used his iPhone and natural light to film his videos, and still today he uses his phone to film vlogs, and for his sit-down videos, he upgraded to a used Cannon 70D which he purchased on eBay. For editing software, he uses iMovie, a free app that comes downloaded on Apple computers. His tips: build community by replying to comments and focus on having a catchy title and an intriguing thumbnail image. "Any time someone has a notification turned on they just see the title," he said. "If enough people click on it from that notification, YouTube is going to be placing it temporarily on the homepage for people who have maybe watched me once or twice in the past. So the thumbnail has to be eye catching." Sign up for Business Insider's influencer newsletter, Influencer Dashboard, to get more stories like this in your inbox. For more on the business of influencers, according to YouTube stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts: How much money do YouTubers make a month? A minimalist influencer with 77,000 subscribers shares exactly what she earns and spends: The minimalist influencer Kyra Ann, who has 77,000 subscribers, shared how much money YouTube paid her in February. 10 YouTube stars explain which of their videos earned the most money and why: We spoke to 10 creators with vastly different channels, and they shared the most amount of money YouTube paid them for a single video. How much YouTube pays for 1,000 views: 11 top creators reveal their average CPM: Influencers who are a part of YouTube's Partner Program can earn money on their channels by placing ads within videos. Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns explains why country music is universal
A self-taught hedge fund manager who's returned 16%-plus annually to investors since 2012 shares his 'special situation' strategy — and a stock that makes up 39% of his holdings
Steven Kiel — the self-made founder and portfolio manager at Arquitos Capital — leverages a special...Steven Kiel — the self-made founder and portfolio manager at Arquitos Capital — leverages a special situations approach to investing that features hyper-concentrated positions. He says he looks for companies in transition and to maximize specific situations while minimizing externalities. Kiel has returned 16.9% annually after fees to shareholders since Arquitos' inception in 2012. Click here for more BI Prime stories. Steven Kiel, founder and portfolio manager at Arquitos Capital, started his fund with one employee: himself. "I always was interested in things like this," he said on "The Acquirers," an investing podcast. "Going back to even before I graduated from law school, as a personal investor, I was always interested in niche things and idiosyncratic things." Before Kiel carved out a career as a hedge fund manager, he spent time consuming timeless lessons from the legendary investors that came before him. Books like: "Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist" by Roger Lowenstein, "Margin of Safety" by Seth Klarman, and "You Can be a Stock Market Genius" by Joel Greenblatt were extremely influential throughout his journey. When it came time to open his own fund, Kiel had his strategy figured out. He'd focus on special situations. "Special situations can mean a lot of different things," he said. "I'm looking for companies in transition. I'm looking to maximize company specific situations and kinda minimize external things." Those special situations include: spinoffs, mergers, bankruptcies, restructurings, and recapitalizations, among others. "It depends on each situation, but you're really looking for something that's company specific that has less risk and less variables outside of the company," he said. "Really something specific as to what's going on, where management has control over the situation and can control the variables." To source new ideas Kiel has a number of SEC alerts set up. S-1 filings, S-3 filings, employment agreements, contingent value rights, rights offerings, and tender offers all garner extra attention. In addition to sniffing out a special situation, Kiel employs a "balance-sheet-to-income-statement investing" approach. "I want to buy when the balance sheet is strong, when it's reasonable priced, when there is something specific going on at the company that might unlock that value over time," he said. "And then there's a transition that would be made to reinvestment opportunities, predictable free cash flow generation over time." Read more: 110 units and retired at 36: How a former Clemson football captain went from '$1,000 and my car' to a successful real-estate investor Kiel relayed his portfolio's largest position — MMA Capital (MMAC) — as a prime example of this methodology and thinking. Currently, MMA Capital makes up about 39% of his holdings. In totality, Kiel says that his top five positions make up about 75% of his total portfolio. "It's made the transition from this balance sheet type of approach — reasonable valuations — to now it's transitioned into the income statement predictability," he said. "Other investors haven't really realized it yet." Due to an array of off balance sheet assets, stock buybacks of about 10% of the company's value per-year, and swaths of insider ownership, Kiel says that the book value of MMA Capital has been growing each year. "They were transitioning into another type of business," he said. "They were a specialty asset manager, and now their primary business is much different than it was 5 years ago." Today, Kiel says that MMA Capital's primary business is a solar lending fund. "They'll likely throw off $6 a share next year just from the returns from the solar lending fund, trades at $32, book value is $37 and change," he said. "And so it took several years for it to create that predictability, but now you're there." Ultimately, this confluence of special situation and balance-sheet-to-income-statement investing has handsomely reward Kiel. Since his firm's inception in 2012, he's achieved 16.9% net annualized returns. SEE ALSO: 110 units and retired at 36: How a former Clemson football captain went from '$1,000 and my car' to a successful real-estate investor Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: A big-money investor in juggernauts like Facebook and Netflix breaks down the '3rd wave' firms that are leading the next round of tech disruption
Kevin David is a YouTube creator and entrepreneur with 838,000 subscribers. David earned about $400,000 in...Kevin David is a YouTube creator and entrepreneur with 838,000 subscribers. David earned about $400,000 in Google AdSense from the ads in his YouTube videos in 2019. YouTube's Partner Program lets creators earn money by monetizing their channels with video ads. These ads earn a certain amount of money depending on factors like a video's watch time, length, and viewer demographic. Sign up for Business Insider's influencer newsletter, Influencer Dashboard, to get more stories like this in your inbox. Click here for more BI Prime stories. Kevin David doesn't consider himself a YouTube star, but for a creator without millions of followers, he's able to generate major revenue. David, who has 838,000 subscribers on YouTube, posts videos about how to make money online and steps to selling products on Amazon. In 2019, his YouTube channel earned $400,000 from the ads that play in his videos, according to a screenshot of his creator dashboard. That's because David is a part of YouTube's Partner Program, which gives creators the ability to earn money through ads placed by Google. Though David's videos don't tend to get millions of views, he earns more money than the average YouTube creator because of the type of content he produces: detailed how-to videos (like how to make money online or sell products on Amazon) and e-commerce tutorials. These videos are more valuable to advertisers, he said, and his channel has a higher CPM rate (or cost per 1,000 views) than most creators. Besides filming videos for YouTube, David is also an entrepreneur. He's used YouTube to extend his business and drive new viewers to his website and Facebook groups. How the style of videos affects CPM rates on YouTube David gets the ideas for his content by looking at the Google Ads Keyword Planner to see how often people are searching particular phrases and at other combinations of video topics and thumbnails that have been successful in view count, he said. In August, David told Business Insider that his how-to guide for using Facebook ads, with 2.2 million views, had made just under $50,000 in Google AdSense revenue. For comparison, Brian Barczyk, a YouTube creator with 2 million subscribers, recently told Business Insider that his video with 28 million views earned about the same amount of money. Barczyk's video showed his viewers how to help a snake that's unable to lay its eggs. The video likely reached a less valuable audience to advertisers than David's Facebook ads tutorial. In general, business-related channels have a relatively high CPM rate. Marina Mogilko, an entrepreneur and YouTube creator, spoke with Business Insider about her three YouTube channels, and she said that her business channel makes more per view than the others — by far. David's "Shopify Tutorial for Beginners" video, which required minimal production because he filmed it using the screen-record feature on his laptop while staying in a cheap hostel in Australia, made over $40,000, he said in August. "Literally just using my laptop and QuickTime to record my screen, which is free," he said. "That single video earned as much as some Americans are in a year, and I literally just sat down, no editing, free recording software, single take, and recorded it." On average, David's videos generate between $2,000 to $10,000 in Google AdSense revenue, he said. Some top YouTube creators have strategies they employ to earn more money from advertising on videos. By figuring out the right number of ads to include per video and how long each video should be, a YouTube creator can maximize the amount of revenue they'll earn. David includes ad options on his videos (preroll, midroll, and post-roll ads), and he places them before his viewers typically "drop off" or click off from a video, he said. By paying attention to these metrics and building a strategy that works, David's videos continue to earn revenue years after they are uploaded. He refers to the money he generates on YouTube as "passive income" and said content on YouTube, unlike Instagram, has the opportunity to resurface — particularly through search — and make money. "When you post an Instagram picture, you get 1,000 likes, 2,000 likes, but the next day it's gone, and no one ever sees it again," David said. "I have a video that is close to 2 years old, and it still to this day gets over 1,000 views per day and probably generates at least $1,000 a day." For more on how to become a successful influencer, according to YouTube and Instagram stars, check out these Business Insider Prime posts: A YouTube creator who makes reptile videos says he charges brands as much as $30,000 for a sponsorship deal: Brian Barczyk is a 50-year-old YouTube creator who supports himself and his family financially from the money he earns on YouTube. How much money a YouTube video with 28 million views makes: Barczyk broke down how much money he earned on his most popular YouTube video, which has 28 million views. A personal-finance influencer earned over $100,000 in his first year from YouTube. He shared his strategy and what he made each month: Andrei Jikh broke down how much money he earned on YouTube each month in 2019 and what he learned along the way. SEE ALSO: A 5-step guide to making the most money possible from YouTube video ads, with advice from top creators Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns explains why country music is universal